ZHOU ERFU (1914—2004) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

ZHOU ERFU (1914—2004)
The Dictionary

ZHOU ERFU (1914—2004). Novelist and poet. Born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, Zhou Erfu joined the Left-wing Association of Chinese Writers in the mid-1930s as a student in the English Department of Guanghua University in Shanghai. After graduating from college in 1938, Zhou worked as an editor and journalist, initially in the Communist-controlled Yan’an in the northwest and later in Chongqing and Hong Kong. After 1949, he rose to the position of deputy minister of culture. While visiting Japan in 1985 as head of an official delegation, he visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which violated the Chinese government’s diplomatic rule and resulted in the suspension of his party membership.

Although he began his literary career as a poet, publishing in 1934 Ye xing ji (Traveling at Night), a collection of poems, Zhou is best remembered for his novels, especially Shanghai de zaochen (Morning in Shanghai), which portrays Shanghai’s industrialists around the time of the Communist takeover in 1949. Written in the mode of socialist realism, the novel offers a panoramic view of the city at an important historical moment. Through the changes in the life of the main character, an ambitious textile mill owner, the novel reflects the difficult trajectory of Chinese manufacturers in their effort to build a national industry and their gradual conversion to socialism. Often compared with Mao Dun’s Ziye (Midnight), another novel that treats the same subject matter, Zhou’s work is more ambitious with four volumes covering a wide spectrum of diverse social classes from wealthy factory owners to struggling workers. Similar in scope is Zhou’s historical novel Changcheng wan li tu (A Portrait of the Great Wall), which is about the Chinese people’s heroic resistance to Japanese invasion in World War II. He worked, off and on, for 16 years to finish the six-volume historical saga. Zhou’s other publications include Baiqiu’en daifu (Doctor Norman Bethune), a biographical novel based on the life of the Canadian doctor who died while treating Chinese soldiers during the Sino-Japanese War, another novel Yan su ya (The Swallow Cliff), and several collections of short stories and essays.