XU XU, A.K.A. HSU HSU, XU BOXU, XU YU (1908—1980) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

XU XU, A.K.A. HSU HSU, XU BOXU, XU YU (1908—1980)
The Dictionary

XU XU, A.K.A. HSU HSU, XU BOXU, XU YU (1908—1980). Novelist, playwright, and poet. Xu Xu studied philosophy and psychology at Beijing University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Paris. He moved to Hong Kong in 1950. A prolific and versatile writer who enjoyed popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, Xu has been somewhat neglected for the last 50 years in China. This lack of attention might have something to do with a widely circulated statement that he made about his change of heart about Marxism: “Those who are not moved by Marxism at a young age are cold-blooded, but if they still make a fetish of it at middle age, they are idiots.” His scope of writing includes poetry, prose, drama, and literary criticism, but his main achievements are in fiction.

During his stay in France, Xu wrote Gui lian (Ghost Love), his first novella, which earned him his reputation as a writer. It is a tale of a young man’s fortuitous meeting with a woman in black who calls herself Ghost. This woman, originally a revolutionary and an assassin, escaped from prison and after spending several years abroad in exile has returned to China. Faced with the failure of the revolution and her lover’s murder, she becomes withdrawn. Disguising herself as a ghost, she lives a reclusive existence in a dreary old house in the suburbs of Shanghai, and through the practice of meditation and yoga, she has gained a serene and elegant appearance. The young man woos her enthusiastically only to be refused. This novella contains all the ingredients of a popular story: a fantastic tale, intrigue, modern romance, and even a trendy revolutionary theme. It fully demonstrates the author’s imagination and talent as well as his political instinct.

Xu’s best-known novel is Feng xiaoxiao (The Wind Soughs and Sighs), published in 1943. Applying his favorite features of detective and romantic fiction combined with a patriotic message, the author tells the story of an individualistic young philosopher living in Japanese-occupied Shanghai and his relationships with three beautiful women: a Chinese dancing girl and two American women he has met at a birthday party at the home of an American couple, a military medical doctor and his Secret Service agent “wife.” These romantic relationships are complicated by international and political intrigues. The novel ends with the protagonist joining the American Secret Service to fight the Japanese. The popularity of Xu’s fiction largely rests upon his ability to sustain complex plots and his clever mixture of exoticism and a lyrical and philosophical mode of expression, which helps to avoid the triteness of the common detective plot or romantic story. The major shortcoming of his works, however, lies in their excessively stereotypical characters, which reduces their realistic impact.

Among Xu’s large corpus of fiction are Jibusai de youhuo (Gypsy Temptation), Yi jia (A Family), Beican shiji (The Century of Misery), and Wulan de emeng (Wulan’s Nightmare). Xu’s plays include Yue guang qu (The Moonlight Sonata), Ye hua (Wildflower), Gui xi (Ghost Play), and Xiongdi (Brothers). His poems appear in several collections, including Jie huo ji (Borrowing Fire) and Deng long ji (The Lamp). See also SPOKEN DRAMA.