LI RUI (1950— )
LI RUI (1950— ). Fiction writer and essayist. Born in Beijing, Li Rui lives in Shanxi, which features prominently in many of his writings. Widely considered one of the best writers in contemporary China, Li did not come to fame until the 1990s, even though he was already a published author in the mid-1970s. Houtu (The Solid Earth) is a series of short stories about poor peasants whose character traits contain both shrewdness and ignorance, which Li came to know intimately while working in the countryside as an educted youth during the Cultural Revolution. Also set in the countryside, Wufeng zhishu (Windless Trees) depicts a northern village inhabited by dwarfs whose calm life is disrupted by the arrival of two outsiders: an ardent revolutionary city youth and a beggar girl from the neighboring province. Li’s historical novel, Yincheng gushi (Silver City), set at the beginning of the 20th century when the Qing dynasty was at its last breath, ponders the tumultuous modern Chinese history and the country’s propensity for violence. By examining brutal revolutions, the book calls into question the rationality of using radical political movements as a necessary and natural vehicle to bring about social justice and economic prosperity.
A skilled storyteller attentive to narrative structure and the use of language, Li shows affinities with classical Chinese literature in its brevity and precision and in its expression of both the lyrical and rational sentiments. See also ROOT-SEEKING LITERATURE.