Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010
CHEN RAN (1962— )
CHEN RAN (1962— ). Fiction writer. Born and raised in Beijing, Chen Ran is considered one of China’s foremost feminist writers. She has written a number of stories that examine aspects of a woman’s role and her shifting relationship to the world and the individuals around her. Chen’s female protagonists, all educated urbanites, are spiritual wanderers alienated from the outside world—depressed, lonely, hypersensitive, and rebellious. Her best-known work is Siren shenghuo (A Private Life), a psychological portrayal of a precocious, idiosyncratic adolescent girl growing up in an era of political upheaval. In this novel, the historical realities recede into the background, and the focus is on the coming of age of the protagonist, most notably her sexual awakening and youthful individuality. A Freudian psychoanalytic overtone and homoerotic sensuality give the novel a unique perspective into the inner world of the individual. Likewise, Shengsheng duanduan (Broken Sounds), a fictional account told in the diary form, presents the author’s observations on accidental occurrences in everyday life. In a distinctly intellectual voice, the narrator comments on seemingly randomly selected topics, often trivial events that trigger her thoughts and imagination, and frequently digresses from the mundane details to enter into a philosophical discourse.
Other works by Chen include short stories “Wunü yu tade mengzhong zhi men” (The Witch and the Door in Her Dream), “Maishui nü he shougua ren” (The Wheat-ear Woman and the Widow), “Fan qiang dou shi men” (All Walls Are Ears), “Ling yi zhi erduo de qiaoji sheng” (The Knocking Sounds of the Other Ear), and “Pokai” (Broken). These tales feature single women who live by themselves, foregrounding a woman’s lonely battle against the outside world and the dysfunctional human relationships characterized by betrayal, suspicion, and miscommunication. As Chen moves further into the inner world of her characters in her exploration of the female body and the human mind, her writings become more probing and pensive, noted also for their unique imageries and the contrast between the lived and dreamed realities. These are characteristics that help put Chen in the ranks of China’s avant-garde writers.