Century China in the Eyes of Mo Yan and
His Generation of Novelists
Left to Right: Mr. Mo Yan, Dr. Jeffery Kinkley, Dr.
Ho Yong at China Institute
Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mo
Yan looks like “one of a kind” in the broad field of
contemporary Chinese novelists. The sages of Stockholm credit his
achievement to a “hallucinatory realism” that “merges folk
tales, history and the contemporary.” The view from China can be
somewhat different. Mo Yan’s intense interest in his
“roots”—in twentieth-century Chinese history—is
characteristic of a whole generation of writers: those old enough to
claim personal knowledge of the Cultural Revolution, but too young
to have experienced the “old society” before the reign of Mao
Zedong. Their explorations of history and memory in long, epic
novels, as pioneered by Mo Yan in the 1980s, differentiate these
writers from both older and younger Chinese thinkers and
Following a road that has taken them from
avant-gardism and absurdism to new kinds of realism described as
magical, hallucinatory, or hysterical, Mo Yan, Su Tong, Yu Hua,
Zhang Wei, Ge Fei, Wang Anyi, Li Rui, and Han Shaogong have created
grand new visions of modern Chinese history. Jeffrey Kinkley argues that these visions are at root
dystopian. The writers’ major novels, which can now be sampled in
excellent English translations, bear comparison with similar
experiments from Latin America and South Asia.
Jeffrey C. Kinkley, a professor of history at St.
John’s University in New York and a teacher and translator of
modern Chinese literature and film, is known for his studies of the
prewar author Shen Congwen and his times, twentieth century Chinese
detective stories, fictional explorations of legal process and
official corruption in recent Chinese literature, and other topics
in the intellectual and literary history of twentieth century China.
His studies of China’s dystopian “new historical novels,”
partly funded by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, will be
forthcoming in a book from Columbia University Press.
a feature story on Professor Kinkley on “News China” you
can read it here.
Saturday, October 05, 2013, 2pm to 4
Admissions: Free for members and $5
Location: China Institute, 125 East
65th Street, New York, NY 10021, between Lexington &