Bumper Harvest

By Lu Qianwen Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-18 17:23:01


Su Tong
Su Tong

Han Shaogong Photos:CFP
Han Shaogong Photos:CFP


Spurred by Chinese writer Mo Yan winning a Nobel Prize last year, domestic enthusiasm for literature is more overwhelming than ever. And it's not just the reading of novels, but the writing of them that is enjoying a boom this year. 

Is it mere coincidence or another side effect left over from a Chinese author winning the Nobel Prize? Whatever the cause, 2013 will be a lucky year for literature lovers.

A good start

With heavyweight writer Jia Pingwa publishing his new work Dai Deng first in January, the upsurge of domestic novel publishing this year was ushered in. Late in January, Shanghai female writer Wang Anyi's book The Uproar met the public, only two years after her last novel Tian Xiang.

And both of these books are off to a good start. Usually an electronic book's price is 2 to 5 yuan, but the e-book version of Jia's Dai Deng is priced at 15 yuan. Moreover, it sold 12,000 copies within a month of being put online on January 10. The paper version in bookstores is expected to sell over 500,000 copies this year, according to figures from the publisher People's Literature Publishing House.

Meanwhile, sales of The Uproar by Wang Anyi also exceeded people's expectation, reaching 30,000 copies up to now. "Since Mo Yan won the Nobel Literature Prize, domestic people's passion for reading has been high," said Cheng Yongxin, the managing editor-in-chief of the leading literature magazine The Harvest, which is issued bimonthly and best known for publishing domestic writers' novels.

"The encouraging sales number of 30,000 copies for Wang's new book is partly related to people's high enthusiasm for reading since Mo Yan won the prize, which has given great motivation for writers," said Cheng.


Next from leading writers

Ten years after his last novelIndicationsAn Shi, 2002) was published, famous writer Han Shaogong's new book Ri Ye Shu is expected to meet the public late this month. Meanwhile, it will be serialized in The Harvest. In fact, the book was finished last July, but was in a constant state of polishing, according to Cheng.

Best known for his long novel A Dictionary of Maqiao in 1996, Han's new novel centers on the familiar theme of "Zhi Qing - the group of the educated youth who were sent down to rural areas to live and work from the 1950s to the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76)."

Instead of just being limited to the life of the Zhi Qing group in that period, his latest novel spans from their youth to their aged years, and meanwhile the life of their parents and children are also brought into the story, painting a bigger picture of China's social changes.

As a member of the generation that was deeply affected by the historic Zhi Qing period, Han has tried this theme before. As early as 1980, he rose to fame with West Thatch, also centered on this theme.

"The experience of the Zhi Qing period is an important part of their life, influencing their thoughts and spirits from the start," said Cheng. "Though the new book concentrates on the Zhi Qing group, the author is actually writing about the present day and future," said Cheng, "like Jia Pingwa's Dai Deng, Han's new book is a retrospective of his thoughts and inspirations about life when turning 60," he added.

Another domestic leading writer Su Tong who is renowned for the novel Wives and Concubines (1990) which later was adapted to the film Raise the Red Lantern directed by Zhang Yimou, will publish his new novel Huang Que Ji this June. And the serialization will be in The Harvest starting in May.

Still setting the story on the famous "Xiangchun street (a fictitious road in the South created by Su, which has frequently appeared in his novels recording the stories and growing up of a group of youth who were born in the 1960s)," this new story begins in the unlikely setting of a mental health hospital.

Meanwhile, writer Yan Lianke also plans to publish his new novel Zha Lie Zi soon. During an earlier interview with the Global Times, Yan said that the new book, which centers on the subject of social reforms and changes since the opening up of China in late 1970s, is still being polished although it was essentially completed last August.

Besides Han, Su and Yan, other leading writers like Ma Yuan and A Lai will also publish their new books in the next months. And in the late half of the year, Sun Ganlu will publish his new novel Qianli Jiangshan Tu, another writer Xia Shang's new book Dongan Jishi will also meet public.

"This year is a big year for domestic novels," said writer Ye Kai, "the collective publishing of their works represents the peak of their writing for writers born in the 1950s."

Given the healthy situation for publishing novels, literature magazines are also altering their strategy accordingly.

"We will have a special issue for novels this April to publish six works at the same time, because there are too many anticipated works this year," said Cheng.


The new generation

Compared to the flourishing writing of those born in the 1950s and 1960s, younger writers are a little eclipsed with fewer works this year. Among all the long novels that The Harvest plans to publish this year, there is only one by a relatively young author: Tian Er, born in 1976, will see his Tianti Xuanfu, which depicts the life of policemen at a police station, published in the periodical.

In fact, there had been a group of outstanding writers born in the 1970s like Zhu Wenying, Ye Mi, Wei Wei and Jin Renshun. "Their writing skills have been fully practiced. Now maybe what they need is more time to overcome the bottleneck period and then quality works will come out," said Cheng.

As for the group of emerging writers born after the 1980s, their style is sharply different from those before, as if a giant rift had appeared between them and the previous generations. "From their subject matter to the structure of their stories, and even the pace of storytelling, they are not so traditional," said Cheng.

Learning to build their own styles, young writers still lack flagship works with a clear style. "Writers born after the 1980s actually take a great share of China's reading market, but they are short in their representative works," said Yan Lianke.

"Signature writers like Elieen Chang, Mo Yan, Su Tong and Yu Hua had all published their representative works in their 30s, so I think what the current young writers need most now is to write something with authentic literary value, not just the best-selling ones," said Yan.

Indeed, as a certain historic period loses its influence over a new generation of writers, the traditional style of writing and aesthetic values also inevitably declines.

For traditional novels, these current glory days may be their last. But on the bright side, we can anticipate some fresh new writing styles from the future generation.

Posted in: Books

blog comments powered by Disqus