Scholarship and education
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Friday, April 20, 2007 at 6:03 PM
Zhu Dake is a cultural critic who has a popular Sina blog. His latest book, The Festival of Liumang (流氓的盛宴), explores the history of hooligan culture in China.
In an interview published in the Beijing newspaper The First this week, Zhu talked about literary prizes and the future of popular literature in China, in which he sees a strong role for online writing. Here are some excerpts:
First: In "The Nobel Prize for Literature: A Stockholm Game," you wrote that the award had missed literary greats like Kafka, Joyce, and Tolstoy. What is your view of the relationship of literary masters to the Nobel, or is there not necessarily any relationship at all?
First: Back in 2001, several domestic publishers issued "Toward the Nobel" book series. Countrymen have been clamoring to "Rush the Nobel" for many years, but ths has only brought disappointment to the public. The prize seems to have become a nightmare for Chinese people. Repeatedly discussed anticipation, and repeatedly attacked. What do you think it behind this "paradoxical action", that has this type of psychological mechanism? Some people have said that the attacks on the Nobel are "sour grapes"; what is your view?
First: How do you see "pure literature" (纯文学) and "light literature" (通俗文学)? Where do you think the border should be?
First: You have compared the attempt of an ebbing Chinese literature to save itself to "leaving the ground by pulling on your own hair"; this seems to be a death sentence for contemporary literature. But in your new book last year, The Festival of Liumang, you spent many chapters writing about literature. This certainly is related to your inclusion of literature as an element of your research into cultural phenomena, but does this mean that you still hold out hope for it?
Only if you love deeply will you feel despair
First: On your blog I saw that you posted poems you wrote between 2001 and 2002, "Sister (Dedication to Past, Dreams, and Soul)". This poem cycle seems to have been written before your declared your "divorce from literature," so why now, several years later, is it reappearing before the readers?
First: As a critic, you got quite a reputation back in the 80s. As a college professor, an educator, can you talk a bit about your educational ideals? What do you feel you ought to let the younger generation know? How do you handle your two identities as a "celebrity" and a normal teacher?
Zhu: Teaching is just what I do for a living, but it does hold a certain interest for me. We are faced with a lot of things that have been broken. My responsibility in the classroom is to effect repairs, to help others find a measurement for fundamental values. But I have no way to determine whether my efforts are effective. I am that kind of clumsy repairman. As for the "celebrity" you mentioned, I don't have that self-consciousness. In the classroom, I am just a teaching craftsman.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.