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Voices in his head

Updated: 2012-04-10 08:04
By Chitralekha Basu ( China Daily)

Voices in his head

The writer Han Dong is difficult to pin down and is full of surprises, Chitralekha Basu finds.

Just how many people is the writer Han Dong? Offer an idea and he usually has more than one take on it. Take the theme of urban youth being sent down to pick up life lessons from peasants living in rural China in the wake of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), for example. The cinematic detailing of condemned townsfolk building their lives from scratch in the countryside in the novel Banished is so very different in tone from the heart-tuggingly absurdist black humor in Screwed. In the latter an "educated young man" is pulled up for sodomizing the village's lone ox and thereby sabotaging production. The ruthless, and comically bizarre persecution of Xiaofei in Screwed and the meticulous recording of a momentous shift in Chinese history in Banished could have been written by two people.

The language of Han's poetry seems to have journeyed from being confounding to the pared-down and minimal, even colloquial. There are poems like Mountain People and The Wild Goose Pagoda - in which elements from the grand Chinese classical tradition are tweaked by the juxtaposition of the banal and the morbid. Then there is the middle-aged poet trying to locate himself in the context of the snazzy new entrepreneurial China, as in Night Flight and In Shenzhen, to a Group of Friends. Are these the handiwork of the same writer?

Voices in his head

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