Literature created under and by a repressive regime is rarelyaccorded the same respect as works that go against the party line. Yet,as Richard King’s Milestones on a Golden Road argues,these works deserve serious attention as part of an attempt, howevermisguided, to create a Chinese socialist culture.
King presents eight pivotal works of fiction produced in four keyperiods of Chinese revolutionary history: the civil war (1945-49), theGreat Leap Forward (1958-60), the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), andthe post-Mao catharsis (1979-80). Taking its cues from the SovietUnion’s optimistic depictions of a society liberated byCommunism, the official Chinese literature of this era is characterizedby grand narratives of progress.
Addressing questions of literary production, King looks at howwriters dealt with shifting ideological demands, what indigenous andimported traditions inspired them, and how they were able to depict autopian Communist future to their readers, even as the present took avery different turn. Early “red classics” were followed byworks featuring increasingly lurid images of joyful socialism, andlater by fiction exposing the Mao era as an age of irrationality,arbitrary rule, and suffering – a Golden Road that had ledto nowhere.
Milestones on a Golden Road could hardly be more timely or welcome. The core subject, the fiction of the early PRC, is important in its own right, but until recently it has been treated inadequately or ignored. King, already recognized as a leading authority of contemporary fiction, has created a robust framework for the consideration of eight major novels from four key periods in modern Chinese history. This significant contribution to modern literary criticism and history will stand as a classic in its field for years to come.
Milestones on a Golden Road presents ‘red classics’ in fiction before, during, and after the Maoist socialist period – a newly emerging field of inquiry. King’s scholarship is excellent, and he makes good use of the primary and secondary materials, in English and Chinese. His accessible and lively book will be an important text for scholars and students of modern Chinese literature, history, and culture.
Introduction: The Road and the Writer
Part 1: The War Years and the Search for Form,1945-48
1 Ma Feng and Xi Rong, Heroes of Lüliang, and“Revolutionary Popular Literature”
2 Zhou Libo, Hurricane, and the Creation of aChinese Socialist Realism
Part 2: The Great Leap Forward and the Stuff of Heroism,1959-62
3 Li Zhun’s “A Brief Biography of LiShuangshuang”: A Fast-talking Vixen Creates a Village Canteen
4 Hu Wanchun’s “A Man of OutstandingQuality”: Pavel, but not Rita, and certainly not Ingrid, in theShanghai Dockyards
Part 3: The Cultural Revolution and the Spirit of Struggle,1972-76
5 Hao Ran on The Golden Road: Transformationsin Rural China
6 Zhang Kangkang at The Dividing Line: A BoldLeap into Troubled Waters
Part 4: After Mao: Reversing Judgements,1979-80
7 Chen Guokai’s The Price: The Flood ofTears
8 Zhang Yigong’s The Story of the Criminal LiTongzhong: Work with the Spade
Epilogue: A Golden Road to Nowhere
Coping with Calamity
Environmental Change and Peasant Response in Central China, 1736-1949
By Jiayan Zhang
Diasporic Chineseness after the Rise of China
Communities and Cultural Production
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