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Online Brushing History Against The Grain Reading The Chinese New Historical Fiction 1986 1999
Thus, any examination of the way we use language in literature, everyday discourse, philosophical meditation, or ideological propaganda—to give but a few examples—can reveal much about how we see the world. Language has long been a subject of philosophy, but it can also be a subject in fiction writing. The novel reads like a specialized encyclopedia on the Khazar polemic and invites the reader to jump between entries when new and unknown terms appear in the text.
David Grossman has also used the dictionary format to explore Jewish ethnic identity in his See under Love , and Walter Abish pursues formal prose experiments in his Alphabetical Africa In the period around the turn of the last millennium, three China-born authors published literary works that adopted the dictionary format. In , Han Shaogong wrote A Dictionary of Maqiao Maqiao cidian , depicting the life, regional history, and local identity of a fictional village in southern China through its use of words.
Xiaolu Guo used the dictionary format to point to intercultural relationships as a form of translation in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers from Finally, Yu Hua , in , made use of the inherent connection between language and reality construction when he took it upon himself to rewrite recent Chinese history by redefining certain Chinese key terms in his China in Ten Words Shige cihuili de Zhongguo.
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As I argue later, this last work, although published as nonfiction, incorporates many traits of fiction writing, thus justifying my labeling it a fictional dictionary. Inspired by the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. The essay is in three parts. The following is my review for newbooks.
Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.
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Sidelong glances Bernards begins his book with two chapters that present the Nanyang motif as an integral, if not major, part of modern Chinese literature. The positive effects of structuring the book in this way, is that the early chapters provide a historical context for the Nanyang motif and thus set the scene for the later postcolonial analysis.
Just as importantly, they bring to light lesser known aspects of the New Literature movement as well as non-canonized works of famous Chinese writers such as Lao She. No margins no centre The single greatest contribution this book makes is, in my opinion, that it turns our way of thinking about and analysing literature away from a supposed centre by creating a kind of empty centre the sea from the vantage point of which every literature, culture and language is an island in an archipelago of other interconnected islands.
This is a brilliant and a much-needed step in literary studies. Firstly, the very structure that allows multiple geographic points of departure also proves quite challenging to a reader less familiar with the mosaic of southeast Asian colonial and national histories. Bernards does his best to remedy this in the text, but a timeline or some other visual historic overview such as the very helpful map provided in the introduction might help the reader navigate between chapters.
Another issue is how the term Nanyang itself simultaneously makes possible and defeats the aim of the book to move beyond national or linguistic literary boundaries. I do not see how Bernards could have done otherwise, but this dilemma helps to remind us that we are still struggling to get beyond notion of centre-periphery.
While generally thrilled with the works and authors presented, I could wish for more methodical congruity in the literary analyses. Some chapters provide biographical interpretations, other offer sociopolitical readings and one gives a comprehensive narrative analysis. With an unswerving eye for the role language plays in creating literatures as well as for the innovate power of fiction in creolising language and with due attention to original terms available in an extensive glossary , this book will prove an eye-opening read, not only for scholars and enthusiasts of Sinophone and southeast Asian literatures, but for linguists and literary scholars everywhere.
His decision to start writing in English was prompted by an announcement from his Chinese publisher that his works could no longer be published in China.
Between and , Qiu remained in the US, but since then he has returned to his native city of Shanghai at least once a year, only to be amazed at the changes and transformations he observes. Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Jane Austen.
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