Friday, October 03, 2014

A Toast with Coffee to Lu Xinhua

Lu Xinhua

I posted this photo of Lu Xinhua last weekend in a series of photos my wife shot during The Byeng-ju Lee International Literary Festival 2014, so some readers have already seen Lu's picture, but I didn't say much about him. Talking to Lu reminded me of some of the differences I've noticed between Chinese and Koreans. Most Koreans I know speak English in a somewhat slow, deliberative manner, whereas the relatively few Chinese I've known tend to speak very quickly, and Lu is one of these quick sort, whose quickness of speech reflects a corresponding alacrity of mind. I had to listen carefully to keep up with his conversation. He's known in America, in some literary circles, as the author of a long short story published in 1978 and titled, variously, "The Wound," "The Wounded," and "The Scar," giving rise to a literary genre known as "scar literature." I've not (yet) read the story, but some details are offered here:
Lu Xinhua became a household name after he published his first story 'The Scar' (also translated as 'The Wound') in Wenhui Daily (11 August 1978), when he was a freshman at Fudan University in Shanghai. He grew up in Shandong province where his father was an officer in the army. After graduating from middle school in 1968, he returned to his native place, Rugao county, as a 'sent-down youth' (zhiqing), joined the army in 1973, was discharged in 1977, and became a worker in Nantong briefly before he entered university, majoring in Chinese literature.

'The Scar' deals with a female Red Guard, Wang Xiaohua, who breaks off relations with her mother after the latter has been denounced as a 'traitor'. She returns home from the countryside nine years later only to find her mother dead with a scar on the forehead. As the first work to deal with family tragedies inflicted by the Cultural Revolution, it aroused a great sensation. Similar works quickly followed, making Lu the founder of Scar literature. Lu continued to write stories, but none attracted such attention. He went on to study in the United States and obtained a Master's degree. After working many years in there, he published a novella, Details (Xijie, 1998), which concerns the life of Chinese students studying abroad. It aroused some attention largely owing to the curiosity about what he had done during those years of silence. (Leung Laifong, "Lu Xinhua," Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, edited by Edward L. Davis, Routledge, 2009)
I asked Lu if he had published any other works that hadn't yet been translated. He told me that he has some novels, as yet only in Chinese. Are any readers familiar with Lu and his literary works?

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