YOU FENGWEI (1943— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

YOU FENGWEI (1943— )
The Dictionary

YOU FENGWEI (1943— ). Fiction writer. A Shandong native and currently living in the city of Qingdao, You Fengwei has served in the army and worked in a factory. His literary career began in 1976 and since then he has published numerous short stories and novellas as well as novels. You has written about some of the most important events in 20th-century China, such as the Sino-Japanese War and the Anti-Rightist Campaign. Instead of sweeping historical accounts, You focuses on human conscience tested during critical moments of moral and political choices. His writings provoke serious reflections on the past and its connection to the present. His best-known work, Zhongguo yijiuqwuqi (China, 1957), a novel about how the cruel machine of the state sets out to destroy the soul of Chinese intellectuals, is hailed as a book of “intellectual and moral conscience” that has reopened a “wound” in modern Chinese history. The Anti-Rightist Campaign that began in 1957 is generally agreed to be a political operation that “castrated” the whole class of Chinese intellectuals by turning them from idealistic, liberal-minded thinkers into, in the words of the protagonist of the novel, “shameless dogs” begging for mercy at the feet of their masters. More than any other political campaign, it is responsible for brainwashing, humiliating, and breaking the spirit of the educated, the cream of society. The bulk of the poignant story takes place in a prison and a labor camp, with 20 years of events reflected through the words of the protagonist. While exposing the brutality of political persecution, the novel also laments the inherent weaknesses of Chinese intellectuals. Yibo (Legacy) narrates two related episodes in the protagonist’s life: in 1949 when he was saved by a peasant in a harrowing escape from the communist-controlled mainland to Taiwan and then in the reform era when the man, now a Chinese American, goes back to the mainland to pay his debt by trying to help the peasant’s son build a fruit-processing factory. Niqiu (Loach), a novel about migrant workers in Beijing, sheds light on the life of the underprivileged population trying to stay alive at the margins of society. Se (Seduction), another novel set in urban China, deals with the inner struggles of a successful businessman faced with all kinds of seduction that a modern city life throws his way: money, sex, power, and fame. In addition to novels, You has written many short stories, including those collected in Yizhuang anjian de jizhong shuofa (Several Versions of the Same Case).