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The Bookshelf: "The Zoo" by Fu Yuehui
   2014-06-24 15:22:08    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Wang

"Frivolous", "narcissistic", and "decadent"-- these words are commonly used to label the works of China's 80s-generation writers.

Whether these descriptions are accurate or not, compared with their predecessors, these young wordsmiths are seen to be more business savvy and taking more interest in entertaining the public.

But 30-year-old Fu Yuehui proves that the works of the 80s-generation writers could be thoughtful and critical, as well.

Li Ningjing has the details.


In the eyes of Zygmunt Bauman, one of the world's leading sociologists and philosophers, our society has already shifted from a solid world to a "light", "liquid" modernity. As many things become more unstable and unpredictable, we are stuck in a mobile world with increasing anxiety, fear and insecurity.

According to Fu Yuehui, the nominator of the Best New Writer at the 10th Chinese Literature Media Awards, self-contradiction has become the spirit of our time.

"Taking Shanghai for example; sometimes, you will spot a smartly dressed girl walking in the street, but maybe she lives in a really shabby place. So I think I could take this as a metaphor. For example, we sit here talking with each other, we all present the best of ourselves; but underneath, there is probably something dismal and dark hidden inside. Many things in our lives are dissonant and awkward. I just pen them down into my novels."

In Fu's latest work, "The Zoo", or "Dong Wu Yuan" in Chinese, the author collects 14 short stories to reveal the feeling of loneliness and inner agitation of common folk. Here, readers could experience the depressing romantic entanglement between a college student and his ex-girlfriend, the overdue love and forgiveness between a rebellious young woman and her dying mother; and to taste the bitterness and doughtiness of an abandoned wife.

While the background of each character is different, they all share the loss of self-identity and feel like outcasts of society.

"There is one chapter titled 'The Missing Person', which tells a story about a man that lost his cell phone. Nowadays, a cell phone is considered as a necessity; we can't image a day without it. We feel important because we have so many contacts in our phones. Therefore, if one day our mobiles get lost, it is a popular belief that everyone will be desperately looking for us. But in fact, no one cares. Earth keeps on rotating no matter who leaves it. So I just wanted to depict this kind of disappointment and self-doubt inside my book."

Although most of the vignettes in the book focus on people's struggle and bewilderment, Fu managed to deliver a sense of tenderness through supernatural stories, including delineating the ghost of a dead boy comforting a girl that just lost her father.

The dedicate and incisive writing style helps Fu win the compliment of the respected literary critic Li Jingze, who brackets him with the renowned Chinese short story writer, Yu Dafu. But Li also emphasizes that it is the audacity of imagination and absurdity that make Fu's fiction stand out.

The author gives the credit to his family.

"When I was a kid, my relatives told me lots of tales, especially my grandmother. Some of her stories are really interesting, which remind me of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'. Many stories are just trumped-up, but she made them sound quite truthful."

Growing up in a remote village in southern China's Yunnan province, Fu admits that some of his inspirations come from his hometown. However, unlike Nobel laureate Mo Yan, the author has no intension to use his home village as the background setting for his stories. For him, writing should be just like the name of his collection suggests -- as diverse as the inhabitants of a zoo.

"I think if you want to write, then you just go on to do it. If you ask me what kind of writer I want to be, it's really difficult to answer that question. For every wordsmith, the only thing we could do is to face our inner selves and the world."

For Studio Plus, this is Li Ningjing.



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