LIU XINWU (1942— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

LIU XINWU (1942— )
The Dictionary

LIU XINWU (1942— ). Fiction writer and essayist. In the immediate post-Mao era, Liu Xinwu was one of the most prominent literary names, identified as the representative writer of scar literature for his numerous stories exposing the damage left by the Cultural Revolution. His first story, “Ban zhuren” (Class Counsellor) was published in 1977, a year before Lu Xinhua’s “Shangheng” (The Scar), which gives the movement its name. “Ban zhuren” explores the harmful influence of the Cultural Revolution on the minds of the Chinese youth. Through the portrayal of two teenagers and their reactions to a love scene in the novel Gadfly by Ethel Lilian Voynich, the story denounces the crime of ultraleftist policies and beseeches the society to save its children. This call echoes the cry Lu Xun voiced 60 years earlier in “Kuangren riji” (The Diary of a Madman) to save the children from Confucian ethical codes. This connection lends “Ban zhuren” an unmistakable sense of history and serves as a warning to the public that the old demons have come back in disguise to threaten the spiritual health of the children. “Aiqing de weizhi” (The Status of Love), “Xinglai ba, didi” (Awake, My Brother), and “Ai mei yipian shuye” (I Love Every Green Leaf) are among Liu’s “scar” stories.

Liu later turned to write a series of stories about Beijing life. The idealized characters in his scar works are replaced with characters that are more realistic. Absent also is the motivation to expose social problems. The best known among this group of writings is Zhonggu lou (The Bell and Drum Towers), which recounts the past and present of several families in a neighborhood located in an old section of Beijing. Liu adopts a unique angle of observation that allows him to devote minute attention to each one of the 30 or so characters. The lack of a central character gives the text a polyphonic feel, allowing the reader a panoramic view of a society in action.

As a writer, Liu is particularly good at taking the pulse of society. He is aware of what the pressing issues of the day are and knows how to address them effectively. For this talent, he is considered a writer of social literature and tends to appeal to a large number of readers. As editor-in-chief of People’s Literature, he has also exerted a strong influence in the development of Chinese literature.