Beijing Literature celebrates 60 years

Beijing Literature, September 2010

Beijing Literature (北京文学) celebrates its sixtieth anniversary with the September, 2010 issue. Like other magazines launched in the early days of the People's Republic, Beijing Literature had a rocky first few decades.

The magazine was launched on September 10, 1950 as Beijing Literature and Arts (北京文艺) with Lao She as editor-in-chief and Wang Zengqi as head of the editorial department. The following year, the Beijing Federation of Literary and Art Circles decided to shut it down so that its staff could devote their energies to Story-Singing (说说唱唱), which had launched in January, 1950, under the stewardship of Zhao Shuli.

Story-Singing published its final issue just a few years later in March, 1955, after which the Federation restored the name Beijing Literature and Arts and began publishing a wider range of content. Lao She took over as editor. He described the magazine's mission in his remarks in the relaunch issue:

As for what sort of publication Beijing Literature and Arts will be, we shall explain that here: in terms of writing, Beijing Literature and Arts will pursue the popular. Whether in creative work or in criticism, we hope that the writing will be concise and readable. We look forward to deep questions explored in simple terms, each piece content-rich without being murky. We know that readers in general need works such as these. Therefore, although it takes a high degree of artistic skill to write succinctly and readably about profound matters, and although this is not something mastered overnight, we nevertheless hope that our contributors will make this effort with with us, to work toward building a new style, one that takes shape in an upward direction from a common base.

Lao She remained editor-in-chief until the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, when the vast majority of the country's magazines ceased publishing. Lao She himself died on this date, August 24, in 1966, drowning himself in Beijing's Taiping Lake (for an exhaustive compilation of interviews on the issues surrounding Lao She's suicide, see Oral Records of the Death of Lao She 老舍之死口述实录).

Beijing Literature, launch issue, September 1950

In 1971, rechristened Beijing New Literature and Arts (北京新文艺), the magazine became the first literary periodical in the country to resume publishing. Its pre-Cultural Revolution name was restored in 1973, and it became the present Beijing Literature in October, 1980. During this time, the magazine was headed by a "primary person in charge" (主要负责人); the position of editor-in-chief was only filled in 1981.

Beijing Literature was central to the debate surrounding a number of literary movements in the 1980s and 1990s, including pseudo-modernism in the late 80s and the "good fiction" movement in the late 90s.

The 60th anniversary commemorative issue includes reflections by a number of major authors on their history with Beijing Literature, as well as original fiction including a new novella by Cao Naiqian, whose five vignettes published under the title "When I Think of You Late at Night, There's Nothing I Can Do" appeared in the June 1988 issue of the magazine after receiving high praise from Wang Zengqi.

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