Magazines

Harvest turns 50

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A montage of Harvest covers

The influential literary magazine Harvest (收获) celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month. The July issue of the magazine includes a sixteen-page special feature that illustrates the history of the magazine with photos of famous writers, images of submitted manuscripts, and reproductions of letters from authors to editors.

Harvest was launched in 1957 by Ba Jin and Jin Yi. Liu Baiyu, who was effectively in charge of the Chinese Writers' Association at the time, spurred the two editors to recreate the feel of Wenji Monthly (文季月刊), a magazine they had collaborated on in the 30s. He convinced the Propaganda Department to sign off on a literary magazine that was national in scope; he wanted the new magazine to have its own style instead of being simply a copycat journal with a local identity slapped on. It drew its editorial board from across the country, but the leadership recommended running it out of Shanghai, the old cultural center, rather than the capital.

The first issue featured Lao She's three-act play, Teahouse and previously unpublished lecture notes by Lu Xun, and the magazine continued to publish important works by major writers. Jin Yi died in 1959, but Harvest continued under Ba Jin's direction through the May 1960 issue, when it was halted due to severe natural disasters (as the official version goes). "Those three years," wrote Luo Sun in 1979, "amounted to more than 10 million characters, and the majority of the works published were good or fairly good."

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A group of young writers surround Wu Qiang, Ba Jin, Wei Jinzhi, and Liu Baiyu (1st row, ltr) in the early 60s

When Harvest reappeared in 1964 with Ba Jin returning as editor, it was as a publication of the Shanghai Writers Association. The new incarnation restarted numbering its issued from #1 and made no mention of the fact that it was a revival. It lasted until 1966, when the political situation changed once again.

The magazine returned in 1979, and Ba Jin served as editor until his death in 2005 (and beyond). He wrote that "Harvest is a magazine open to young writers. It has published the works of young writers in the past, and it will continue to publish the works of unpublished young authors." The magazine became quite influential in the 1980s and 90s, launching the careers of young writers like Yu Hua and providing literary sources for adaptation by Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, who had standing agreements with Harvest to have their pick of the magazine's stories.

Harvest's glory days may be behind it, but this issue offers a nice look back at triumphs of the past decades.

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Harvest magazine, at its launch and today

In addition to the retrospective, this month's issue contains a couple of other highlights:

· Chen Weiwen interviews Lou Ye, director of Suzhou River, Purple Butterfly, and Summer Palace, about his aesthetic ideals, his influences, his movie-making process, his opinions of other directors and film festivals, and the whole "sixth generation" thing. He also talks a bit about his student films, and how he got the nickname "wastebasket" because of his first full-length feature, Weekend Lover.

· Yu Qiuyu, who rose to fame after his essays were published in Harvest in the early 1990s, continues his series of uncollected essays with a piece on Mozi.

· Annie Baobei writes about the south.

· And the long-form fiction in this issue is Chen Damao Stole a Pencil (陈大毛偷了一枝笔) by He Shihua, who wrote the novella "A Chinese-Style Hamlet," set in the Western Han, for World Fiction magazine last year.

Finally, the special feature is an excellent archive of photos of Ba Jin — apart from a few photos of individual writers alone (Bing Xin, Guo Moruo, and Lao She), the long-time editor is in every single photograph.

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