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Chinese post-1980s writers:new pop stars

(China Daily and
Updated: 2009-08-28 10:03
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New waves of authors continue making a splash in China’s literary scene. The innovative work represents the ideals and styles of younger generations, offering insight into a world often unseen by those of different times.

While most respect and credit is often given to older writers who have consistently been at the leading edge of literary accomplishment, the presence of younger authors, representing the ideals and styles of newer generations, is seen as an integral part of the publishing tapestry.

Literary creation is no longer restricted to career writers who live off the government coffer. Some young writers such as Han Han, who is not associated with any writers' agency, have begun to receive media attention. Instant fame has brought wealth to some of these young writers in turn transforming them into modern day popstars.

What makes authors like Guo Jingming and Zhang Yueran so successful is their ability to connect directly with their peers. Jingming has written several best sellers including: City of Fantasy and River of Sorrow. Yueran's top books, Far Away Peaches, Red Shoes, Bird Under Oath and Lost in 1890, have also become a phenomenon among young readers.

Since Three Layers of Doors, written by Han was released in 2000, it has been reprinted dozens of times and about 2.1 million copies have been sold. The popularity of Han's novel, which describes the life of middle school students, has been attributed to his criticism of the education system.

Guo was ranked 100th on the 2004 Forbes Chinese Celebrity list, reflecting his popularity and the immense commercial potential he possesses. He gained success overnight when his City of Fantasy book hit Beijing's book stores, having sold more than 1.5 million copies. City of Fantasy depicts a fanciful world, where the affections of the characters are simple and pure, with no worldly obstacles. Guo has tried to convey his thoughts on human nature, and his portrayal of rich emotions has been widely appreciated by the readers.

For Guo writing is “like playing badminton. It's one of my hobbies,”, he says. “I write to record the annual changes. Maybe there won't be enough changes in future. Then I will stop writing,” he said.

Not all authors are pleased about being thrown into the spotlight. Zhang writes of her concerns in her blog: “It's always so easy for us to ignore or forgive or even indulge our faults, as if running towards an evil utopia. Did any one of us really realize that this road would never lead us to true literature and, hence, our dreams? ... We are commercial instruments exploited by some people to make money; we are entertainment tools used and played by media and critics...

We make up more meaningless honors for ourselves and play games that have nothing to do with literature.”

An old English saying, “from the mouth of babes,”, signifying the truth that is often spoken by children not yet exposed to the world of lies created by adults takes on particular relevance in this light. Allowing fresher viewpoints and opinions, which can only truly be expressed by younger people, is essential for any nation's literary heritage to avoid dwindling into irrelevant obscurity.

Good storytelling is the golden rule to judge a writer today. And well-told stories sell well among readers who get nothing more than a fleeting satisfaction of knowing the final result of the story, Li says.

The best advice to young writers for their future writing may have been given by French author Jules Renard when he wrote: “Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.” 

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