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The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years By Lingchei Letty ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Great Leap Backward:


The Use and Abuse of Memory

Our deep memory is a strange thing: it is not a chain, nor is it a line. If we delve into it for a long enough time—perhaps years and years—it will then appear to us as a three-dimensional picture, extending endlessly to encompass everything. However, should we dwell only on the surface of this picture, it will revert to its prior mysterious form and lead us to wonder whether the picture we have seen has existed at all. After many years of exploration, I have finally learned that deep memory can only be manifested through action: once the action stops, passages leading to the picture will again be blocked. It is only through constant digging that a memory will emerge and become a beautiful structure. So it is safe to say that people create deep memory, or conversely, that deep memory comes alive, only through creation.

—Can Xue1

In the passage, Can Xue 殘雪, the renowned Chinese avant-garde writer, links together several ideas fundamental to this book: memory, excavation, and representation. Here memory is not only treated as a theoretical concept but also taken as an empirical artifact. As such, Can Xue—both the person and the writer—becomes more significant because her deep memory nurtures and sustains her creative writing.