YU HUA (1960— )
YU HUA (1960— ). Fiction writer. Yu Hua is one of the best writers in modern Chinese literature. Known primarily as a prominent avant-garde writer whose experimental fiction focuses on narrative innovation, Yu is a diverse author who has also worked with both traditional Chinese literary forms and the realist genre. Born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, Yu followed his parents at the age of three to Haiyan in northen Zhejiang. He later studied medicine and worked for several years as a dentist in a county hospital. Envious of the free life of a writer, he began to write in 1983 and published his first story at the age of 25.
In the beginning of his career, Yu experimented with new narrative techniques and showed an obsession with a clinical perspective on brutal acts. “Yijiu baliu” (1986), a story about a man going insane, possibly as a result of the persecutions he has been put through during the Cultural Revolution, is a case in point. The excessive savage imageries of murder, schizophrenia, and violence are presented graphically and salaciously. Whether the thoughtless, unmitigated brutality depicted in the story has some symbolic implications is a subject for debate, but it is obvious that such a relentless cataloging of butchery reveals the author’s fascination with acts of violence. Zai xiyu zhong huhuan (Cries in the Drizzle) and Xianshi yizhong (One Kind of Reality) both belong to this group of experimental writings. Yu has also tried to breathe some new life into the old forms of traditional Chinese literature. His novel Xianxue meihua (Blood and Plum Blossoms) is a parody of Chinese “knight errant” fiction (wuxia xiaoshuo), and “Gudian aiqing” (Classical Love) is based on the traditional genre of “scholar and beauty fiction” (caizi jiaren xiaoshuo).
Yu’s realist narratives are spellbinding tales with profound social implications. Huozhe (To Live) and Xu Sanguan mai xue ji (The Chronicle of a Blood Merchant) are two such powerful stories. Both are about the survival of the little man in the face of unpredictable twists of fate. Huozhe is a historical epic about Fugui, the spoiled son of a rich family, who, unable to take destiny into his own hands, drifts as a tragic figure in the violent currents of 20th-century Chinese history. Tribulations visit him and his family one after another. He endures them all. Despite his many weaknesses, the basic human decency within him enables Fugui to arrive at a state of dignity. Xu Sanguan in Xu Sanguan mai xue ji is also a sympathetic but unappealing figure. Like Fugui, misfortunes reveal the human quality in him. When he is determined to sell his blood “all the way to Shanghai” to pay for his son’s medical treatment, he is redeemed as a loving father. In both novels, there is an unmistakable indictment of an uncaring system in which the little man pays a heavy price for the smallest pleasures in life. In the same vein, Xiongdi (Brothers), his latest novel, tells the moving story of how a family of four, formed by a second marriage, survives the Cultural Revolution. Yu calls this novel “Dickinsonian,” for its rich description of social mores and human love and spirit. See also ROOT-SEEKING LITERATURE.