Eileen Chang's Fiction and C. T. Hsia's A History of Modern Chinese Fiction(2)-英文著作-刘剑梅网
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Eileen Chang's Fiction and C. T. Hsia's A History of Modern Chinese Fiction(2) 作者:刘再复 阅读次数:

Eileen Chang's Fiction and C. T. Hsia's
A History of Modern Chinese Fiction(2)


Part II: The Biases in C. T. Hsia's A History of Modern Chinese Fiction--A Response to C. T. Hsia's Response


Right after I made a speech at the international conference "Eileen Chang and Modern Literature in Chinese" at Lingnan University in Hong Kong (Part One of the present article), C. T. Hsia made some comments on my speech. His comments centered on two points:

(1) A comparison between Eileen Chang and Lu Xun. C. T. Hsia believed that Lu Xun's failure was bigger than Eileen Chang's. Eileen Chang failed to utilize her talent because she had to change her direction to make a living. However, it was improper for Lu Xun to let the League of Left-Wing Writers take advantage of him and to serve as the leader of leftist writers. He went as far as calling Lu Xun a "running dog for the Communists" in an interview with a reporter from Asia Weekly after the conference. He said:

Lu Xun was also a writer who failed to put his talent to full use. We are justified to say that in terms of personal character and the quality of their works Lu Xun was not as good as Eileen Chang. When he was in Peking, Lu Xun, like Hu Shi, was a decent man of letters. But later he surrendered to the Communists and became the leader of the League of Left-Wing Writers. You might regard him as a great writer. But if you change your point of view you can also see him as a running dog.[8]

C. T. Hsia believed that "Eileen Chang was the most dignified Chinese person of the last few decades" and that "her anti-Communist stand came from her support for humanism, justice, and her sympathy for the people. A person often makes compromises when he/she is in a difficult situation. . . . Probably because of the financial difficulties she had when she was in Hong Kong, Eileen Chang received some support from the United States Information Agency when she wrote Love in Redland according to a 'predetermined outline.' For that she would always feel unhappy. Yet the novel is still an outstanding work. In comparison, Lu Xun's compromise was worse. Among the liberal men of letters of the time, including Lu Xun, Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Ye Gongchao, and Chen Yuan, Lu Xun was the only one who made this compromise." C. T. Hsia also criticized me by saying that "Mr. Liu seems to imply that male writers are always superior to female writers since he said that as a man Lu Xun was a better writer than Eileen Chang." [9]

(2) A comparison between Eileen Chang and Ding Ling. In his comments, C. T. Hsia faulted me for equating Eileen Chang's tragedy with Ding Ling's tragedy. He said that "Ding Ling is a different kind of writer. None of her works is good. Her style, for example, the style of "The Diary of Miss Sophia," is terrible. With such a clumsy style, Ding Ling really does not amount to anything." [10]

I did not expect that C. T. Hsia would be so harsh in his criticism of Lu Xun and Ding Ling. C. T. Hsia has proved that he is even more biased against leftist writers such as Lu Xun and Ding Ling than he was more than forty years ago, when he wrote A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. Back then, instead of simply dismissing Ding Ling out of hand, as he does now, he admitted that Ding Ling adhered to her own beliefs early in her career and that her representative work "The Diary of Miss Sophia" had its own value. In Chapter 11 of his book, titled "Communist Fiction, I," we see the following comments on Ding Ling:

Unlike Chiang Kuang-tz'u, Ting Ling began her career as a highly personal author rather than a dedicated propagandist. In her first phase (1926-29) she was primarily interested in probing the meaning of life in unabashedly feminine and autobiographical terms: the stories in her first collection, In the Darkness (1928), notably "Meng K'o" and "The Diary of Miss Sophia," all flaunt the sexual restiveness and impotent fury of a warm-hearted girl in the sinister powers of the city. Apparently lonely and confused, Ting Ling pours all her resentments and exasperations in the diary mold of her fiction. (262-63)

This statement is exactly the same as the one I made about Ding Ling's tragedy of giving up her early personal approach. It contradicts the statements that "none of Ding Ling's works is good" and that "Ding Ling really does not amount to anything." While confirming the value of Ding Ling's early works, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction treats Ding Ling's joining the Communist Party in 1931 as a watershed and sees Ding Ling's post-1931 works as "trite propaganda," completely disregarding good works such as "When I Was in Hsia Village." As can be seen in the statements I have made so far, I am also critical of the class hatred and the vindictiveness in Ding Ling's The Sun Shines on the Sanggan River. However, I do not want to simply dismiss Ding Ling as a "Communist writer" without any analysis. A writer should have his/her freedom to choose his/her political stand. To dismiss a writer because of his/her political stand is not literary criticism but political criticism. I am critical of The Sun Shines on the Sanggan River and Love in Redland not because of their "pro-Communist" or "anti-Communist" political viewpoints but because of their failure to keep an aesthetic distance in the exploration of their subject matter and the resultant loss of aesthetic sensibility as they use a political approach rather than an aesthetic one to deal with their subject matter. Whether or not a writer joins the Communist Party does not determine his/her success or failure as a writer. Sh髄okhov, a Communist writer, wrote And Quiet Flows the Don and Virgin Soil Upturned, but they are universally acknowledged masterpieces. That is because Sh髄okhov portrays war and revolution from a transcendental viewpoint, a viewpoint drastically different from the vulgar viewpoints in The Sun Shines on the Sanggan River and Love in Redland (two novels that discover their arch villains in the landlord class and the Communist Party, respectively). C. T. Hsia's judgments on Ding Ling and Lu Xun (and his judgment on Zhao Shuli, which I discuss below) indicate a determinist bias: a writer is certainly a failed writer if he/she leans toward Communism.

It is from this na飗e deterministic viewpoint that C. T. Hsia evaluates Lu Xun. As a result, he completely overlooks the criticism of the collective unconscious of the Chinese (the national character of the Chinese, in other words) that Lu Xun engaged in throughout his life. He also fails to realize that this criticism remained the same after Lu Xun joined the League of Left-Wing Writers. Lu Xun even saw the weaknesses of the national character of the Chinese in some Communists (for instance, the so-called "four gentlemen"). From the day he wrote "Diary of a Madman" to his death, Lu Xun spent about twenty years exploring the soul of the Chinese and trying to find a cure for the spiritual flaws of the nation. At no time in his writing career did he ever stop his exploration or give up his tenacious struggle against the feeling of despair. In other words, he never failed to fully utilize his talent. Summarizing the agonies the Chinese nation went through during its transition from tradition to modernity, the corpus of his works can be seen as an all-inclusive symbol of such agonies. In terms of spiritual richness and depth, no other writer can match Lu Xun, and Eileen Chang is no exception. To be more exact, Eileen Chang's works fall far short of Lu Xun's works in spiritual depth, and the distance between the two resembles the distance between Bunin and Tolstoy rather than the distance between Bunin and Chekhov. Elegant and philosophical, Bunin's works have an air of nobility and are characterized by pathos, but they fall far short of Tolstoy's works in spiritual richness and depth.

Here we are dealing with the issue of criteria in literary criticism. In evaluating a literary work, a critic should examine the spiritual content and depth of the work in addition to its style. In a speech titled "May Fourth and Fin de Si鑓le Literature" delivered at Lingnan University in the spring of 1999, Bai Xianyong made an argument that in the twentieth century China had produced no great writers--even Lu Xun could not be included in that rank.[11] He also argued that Eileen Chang was the most accomplished writer, because her style was the most elegant. What was the criterion for Bai Xianyong's judgments? He offered the following explanation: "With regard to a writer's accomplishments, we should realize that literature is, after all, an art of language. In terms of content, the influence of contemporary politics and society might give rise to social awareness and revolutionary awareness in literature. These things might seem to be very important, but in the final analysis literature is an art for which the use of language is very important."[12] For all my admiration for Bai Xianyong and appreciation of his accomplishments as a writer, I criticized his criterion in the following statement in a short article "A Discussion with Professor Bai Xianyong," which I published right after his speech:

Bai Xianyong believes that Eileen Chang's elegant style makes her the most accomplished writer. In making this assertion, Bai Xianyong regards the use of language as the ultimate reality in literature and linguistic skill as the ultimate criterion for the evaluation of literature. In so doing, he refuses to acknowledge that spiritual content is also part of the ultimate reality in literature and one of the ultimate criteria for judging the quality of literature. It was certainly wrong for mainland Chinese critics in the past to regard social awareness and revolutionary awareness as the most important elements in literature. However, it is essential for outstanding literary works to have rich spiritual content (including psychological content, concern for its era and for humanity, and aesthetic content). Tao Yuanming's linguistic style is not necessarily the most beautiful, but his poems stand out for their unique yearnings for a life uncontaminated by a vulgar world. As stylists, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky probably do not match Turgenev, but their works, rich in spiritual content, surpass Turgenev's works and became unparalleled masterpieces. Could these two masters' works still remain great works if they only had meager spiritual content?[13]

Even if we limit our attention to the issue of style, we have to say that Lu Xun's style is more elegant, colorful, and adept than Eileen Chang's. A pioneer in twentieth-century Chinese literature, Lu Xun was the first writer to use vernacular Chinese to write fiction and won instant success with "Diary of a Madman." Indeed, he was the first experimenter in modern Chinese fiction, just li