XU XIAOBIN (1953— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

XU XIAOBIN (1953— )
The Dictionary

XU XIAOBIN (1953— ). Fiction writer. Born in Beijing and educated at the Central Institute of Finance, Xu Xiaobin began publishing short stories and novels in 1981. Most of her works are semiautobiographical. She belongs to a circle of young women writers who came to fame in the 1990s and who are noted for their introspective, self-focused narratives that mix fiction with their personal lives. This group includes some well-known names, such as Chen Ran, Lin Bai, and Hong Ying. Xu’s fictional works not only show a tendency toward autobiography but also a persistent urge to probe into some of the fundamental questions about human existence. Interested in the inner world of women living on the peripheries of society, Xu portrays their feeble revolt against a corrupt world, often in the form of escape. While running away from society, her characters also run away from their true selves. They live in the real world but their souls wander out of their bodies, making them eccentric creatures unable to behave according to social conventions. These spiritual wanderings, often attributed to conditions created since time immemorial, endow Xu’s novels with a mythical dimension.

What characterizes Xu’s fiction is her probing of the inner world of women, the mystery of their desires and experiences, and their perception of the self in society and in history. Dunhuang yimeng (Lingering Dream of Dunhuang) places a romantic tale in an atmosphere of ancient history and mystic religiosity. The heroine, who seeks the meaning of life, achieves her goal by following her unadulterated instincts. Shuangyu xingzuo (Pisces), which explores the despair of women alienated from both society and home, is dominated by a sense of doom and fatalism. Xu is interested in history, but one that is personal not official. Yu she (Feathered Snake) tells the lives of five generations of women, spanning 100 years. In this introspective novel, Xu probes the makeup of the female psyche in relation to society and family history. The heroine’s eccentric and violent behavior, representing her desperate attempt to break free from the chains that reined in her predecessors, shocks her family and alienates her from society. Forced to go through brain surgery to treat her insanity, she becomes “normal” but loses her creativity and gradually bleeds to death. Deling gongzhu (Princess Deling), a historical novel, is based on the real life of a Manchu diplomat’s daughter, also an author of some repute. The central theme of Deling gongzhu is not driven by great events but by the inner workings of the characters and their emotional journeys through love and interpersonal relationships. For her unrelenting focus on the female perspective, Xu is regarded as one of the foremost feminist writers in China.