YE ZHAOYAN (1957— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

YE ZHAOYAN (1957— )
The Dictionary

YE ZHAOYAN (1957— ). Fiction writer. A Nanjing native and grandson of Ye Shengtao, Ye Zhaoyan graduated from Nanjing University and became known in the 1980s through the publication of several stories, including “Xuangua de lü pinguo” (A Hanging Green Apple), “Wuyue de huanghun” (Dusk in May), “Lüse kafeiguan” (A Green Café), and Zaoshu de gushi (The Story of a Date Tree), which established his reputation as an innovative stylist. Since then, he has written several novels, more short stories, and numerous essays. Like most young writers in the 1980s, Ye came under the influence of Latin American magic realism. “Zaoshu de gushi” echoes Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in foregrounding the role of the narrator. This story features a woman and her chance encounters with several men at a time of great political uncertainty. The narrator tells the tragic story with many moments of lighthearted humor, emphasizing the helplessness of individuals facing their capricious and unpredictable fates.

His tales about old Nanjing under the poetic title of Ye bo Qinhuai (Anchored at Night in the Qinhuai River) paint cameos of personalities and scenes of Nanjing in the 1930s and 1940s. All four stories in the series have the city’s famous sites for titles. “Zhuangyuan jing” (The Number One Scholar’s Mirror) is a love story between a humble musician and a warlord’s concubine. “Shizi pu” (The Shop at the Crossroad) portrays the sinister world of government and the successes and failures of romantic relationships among the city’s upper class. “Zhuiyue lou” (The Moon Chasing Pavilion) tells of the courageous life of an old scholar who refuses to collaborate with the Japanese. “Banbian yin” (Half of a Camp) details the disintegration of a large established family after the Japanese defeat. Along the same line, Ye wrote Hua ying (The Shadow of Flowers), relating a moving tale about an old spinster who inherits a large fortune and is ruined as a result of the fierce fight between her and her relatives for control of the inheritance. The movie version of the story is Chen Kaige’s Feng yue (Temptress Moon). Hua sha (The Ghost of Flowers) is the least traditional of Ye’s neohistorical stories. The author injects the historical narration with a dose of contemporary sensibility by creating an ironic distance between the narrator and the characters. The story begins in the late Qing dynasty and ends half a century later in the Republican period, focusing on a local hero, who is executed for burning Christian churches and killing missionaries, and his posthumous son and half brother who terrorize a southern Chinese town. Among Ye’s neohistorical stories, the best known is Yijiusanqi nian de aiqing (Nanjing 1937: A Love Story), a saga set on the eve of the Japanese massacre of Nanjing, about a passionate courtship launched by a determined former philanderer who is oblivious to the coming of the Japanese onslaught. Narrated with humor and with little sentimentality, the novel is a poignant personal story played out on a grand historical stage.

Ye has written several novels and novellas about contemporary life, notably the allegorical Meiyou boli de huafang (The Greenhouse without Glass) set during the Cultural Revolution, and Women de xin duo wangu (Our Hearts Are So Stubborn), which traces the sexual encounters of a man during his 40 years of life. See also ROOT-SEEKING MOVEMENT; SINO-JAPANESE WAR.