MA FENG (1922—2004)
MA FENG (1922—2004). Fiction writer. Ma Feng was one of the so-called potato school writers, all from Shanxi Province, known for writing about and for the rural masses. Throughout his career, Ma closely followed Mao Zedong’s call to use literature as a tool to serve the people. With this mission in mind, he set out to write stories that would be appreciated by ordinary peasants. For Ma, folk literature was an inexhaustible source of artistic creation, and it played an important role in the formation of his literary style: plain, humorous, and easy to understand. Lüliang shan yingxiong zhuan (Heroes of Mount Lüliang), coauthored with Xi Rong, another potato school writer, is Ma’s best-known work, written in a style reminiscent of traditional chapter novels, particularly Shuihu zhuan (The Water Margin). His later works are better representations of the realist mode in terms of artistic vision and narrative technique. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Ma’s reputation was at its peak. Many of his stories were household names, such as “Women cun li de nianqing ren” (The Young People in Our Village) and “Wode diyige shangji” (My First Boss). All his life, Ma loved the peasants and never forgot his responsibility to represent their interests and speak to them in their language. Whether in characterization, choice of expression, or the organization of the interwoven details, Ma displays the best of his skill in the combination of realistic content with a form inspired by folk traditions. His humorous style also finds its fullest expression in the short story. Ma was also a screenplay writer, having turned several of his own stories into popular movies.
Of his publications, Ma once said, “If judged separately, no story of mine is good enough in terms of thematic development or characterization, but taking all my stories as a whole, the reader can have a general view of what happened in the lives of the Chinese peasants in the course of more than thirty years.” See also SOCIALIST REALISM.