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A Subversive Voice in China: The Fictional World of Mo Yan By Shelley W. Chan ...

Chapter :  Introduction: Hunger and Loneliness: Mo Yan’s Muses in Becoming a Writer
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A Subversive Voice in China:

Western trends in the works of the most celebrated writers of that period, such as Lu Xun (, 1881–1936), Guo Moruo (, 1892–1978), Mao Dun (, 1896–1981), Cao Yu (, 1910–1996), and Ba Jin (, 1904–2005). With the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, however, China once again closed its doors to the outside world. Except for the works of some Soviet writers, such as Maksim Gorky (1868–1936), Alexander Serafimovich (1863–1949), and Nikolai Alexeevich Ostrovsky (1904–1936), foreign literature was by and large shut out. In fact, from the time that Mao Zedong (, 1893–1976), the supreme leader of China, spoke at the Yan’an Forum on Art and Literature in 1942 until the late 1970s, literature—in terms of both topics and writing techniques—was under the strict control of the political party. Basically, highly politicized literature was the only officially approved form of creative writing, and it was used as a tool to educate people, shape their ways of thinking, and promote the official system of beliefs and values.

The literary monoglossia and the personality cult surrounding Mao Zedong reached an extreme during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976),2 when formulaic and propagandist literature became dominant. Similar to the case of the performing arts, in which only eight “revolutionary model plays” were allowed to be staged throughout the entire country,3 almost all literary works—except those by government-paid writers—were labeled as “poisonous weeds” and were either suppressed or repudiated.

With the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the Gang of Four—which had actually controlled politics in Mao’s declining years—was removed from power, and a new era began in Chinese history.4 A revived interest in translations of Western works spread all over the mainland. Books by and about Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Jean Paul Sartre (1905–1980), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), Milan Kundera (1929–), Gabriel García Márquez (1927–), and others enjoyed a large and enthusiastic readership, especially among students. Under such circumstances, literature and art regained a life of their own. The newly emancipated Chinese writers and artists began to move away from and even abandon the political ideology that had been imposed on them for nearly three