China Perspectives 2010/2

SPECIAL FEATURE

Gao Xingjian and the Role of Chinese Literature Today

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China Perspectives 2010/2

Special Feature

Editorial Page 2

Sebastian Veg

“Without ism,” An Ism for One Man Page 6

Noël Dutrait

Gao Xingjian won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000 for his works begun in China in the early 1980s. After moving to France in 1987, he has also written theoretical texts proposing not a major principle or ism, but the opposite, the absence of ism and a “cold” literature, free of all political or ideological influence. He has since had to confront the inherent contradictions between being famous as well as weak and isolated, the latter condition being conducive to producing literature and art in line with his convictions. This article looks at his work through the prism of the absence of ism.

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Historical Reality, Fictional narrative: China in the Frame of Gao Xingjian’s Theatre Page 13

Quah Sy Ren

Gao Xingjian won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000 for his works begun in China in the early 1980s. After moving to France in 1987, he has also written theoretical texts proposing not a major principle or ism, but the opposite, the absence of ism and a “cold” literature, free of all political or ideological influence. He has since had to confront the inherent contradictions between being famous as well as weak and isolated, the latter condition being conducive to producing literature and art in line with his convictions. This article looks at his work through the prism of the absence of ism.

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Gao Xingjian: Fiction and Forbidden Memory Page 25

Yinde Zhang

From Soul Mountain to One Man’s Bible, Gao Xingjian’s fiction is committed to a labour of transgressive remembering: excavating minority heritages eclipsed by the dominant culture, protecting individual memory from established historiography, and sounding the dark areas of personal memory, less to indulge in “repentance” than to examine identity. The writing of memory, thanks to fictionalisation, thus comes to resemble an exorcism that makes it possible to defy prohibitions by casting out external and internal demons and by imposing the existential prescription against normative judgement.

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On the Margins of Modernity: A Comparative Study of Gao Xingjian and Ōe Kenzaburō Page 34

Sebastian Veg

Gao Xingjian and Ōe Kenzaburō share an interest in margins that was the basis for a conversation between them in 2006. A closer comparison of Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain( Lingshan, 1982-1989) and Ōe Kenzaburō’s The Silent Cry ( Man’en gannen no futtobōru, 1967) also reveals a shared distrust of modernity, and a more precise preference for the margins of local culture. This cultural critique of modernity can be documented in their essays. However, although their respective doubts about modernity and central culture translate into similar formulations of an individual ethics, Ōe does not share Gao’s vision of a detached writer of “cold literature,” but rather continues to explore the political implications of his ethical stance. It is argued that their respective definitions of literature can be viewed as explorations of an alternative form of modernity.

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The Aesthetics of Creation Page 47

Gao Xingjian

Articles

In Search of Direction After Two Decades of Local Democratic Experiments in China Page 54

Dong Lisheng

Assessment of the implications of experiments with village committee elections since 1987 has changed. In 2006, direct town elections were categorically forbidden, but in 2008 public nomination and public selection were resumed in Guiyang City for district and deputy municipal leaders. The paper explores the rationale behind the decisions and concludes that a strategic choice is pending within the central leadership.

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Current Affairs

The Two Stages of the Re-education Through Labour SystemFrom Tool of Political Struggle to Means of Social Governance Page 66

Yu Jianrong

Through a retrospective summary of the history of the re-education through labour (RTL) system, the author concludes that the emergence and development of the RTL system can be divided into two stages: its use as a tool of political struggle, and its use as a means of social governance. Although the RTL system has undergone a number of reforms in the wake of social developments, leading to significant changes in its functions and targets, this can be considered adaptation to the varying social requirements of different time periods and changes to its specific tasking, while the intrinsic violation of individual rights by the authorities that underlies this system has never changed. For this reason, although the RTL system remains an effective anomaly, it has lost all legitimate grounds for continued existence.

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China Analysis Page 74

François SchichanThomas Vendryes

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