LIU NA’OU (1900—1939)
LIU NA’OU (1900—1939). Fiction and screenplay writer. Born in Japan, Liu Na’ou spent his first 16 years in Taiwan. He later studied Japanese literature in Tokyo, where he was exposed to the writings of the Japanese New Sensibility school. He went to Shanghai in 1926 and studied French at Zhendan University. Liu was closely associated with Mu Shiying and Shi Zhecun, modernist writers in the New Sensibility school who were active in Shanghai in the 1930s. He was the first to introduce into China the French writer Paul Morand, who influenced his work. Liu wrote about the city and its lures, and his only collection of short stories, entitled Dushi fengjingxian (Skylines of the City), foregrounds the material aspects of modern life in the metropolis. Scenes that are of particular importance to urban existence include ballrooms and cafés, where Liu’s characters interact with one another and where their personalities are shaped and defined. Like his friend Mu Shiying, Liu was particularly interested in the character of the femme fatale, a symbol of eros. Many of his stories revolve around a triangular relationship, with two men in pursuit of one woman, competing for her attention with luxury goods. His characters are trendy men and women, partaking of the vices of modern consumer culture represented by sex, automobiles, and ballrooms. The Shanghai of Liu’s stories is a Westernized cosmopolis, not much different from the cities in Europe and America in terms of modern amenities and materialist obsession. One story, “Reqing zhigu” (The Essence of Love), features a Frenchman as its protagonist in search of an oriental beauty.
As a publisher of journals and books, Liu was an ardent promoter of modernist literature. He was also interested in film. He founded the journal Xiandai dianying (The Modern Film) and wrote and directed a few romantic movies. Liu was assassinated in 1940, allegedly by Shanghai gangsters.