Ma Yuan


Ma Yuan
b. 1953, Jinzhou
Writer
Hailed as the pioneer of the avant-garde/experimental literature that emerged in the mid 1980s, Ma Yuan also writes poetry under the pen-name Lu Gao. Upon graduating from college in 1982 he was assigned to work in Tibet. When he left Tibet for health reasons in 1989, he left his creativity behind, too. He has since worked on various other projects, especially a long documentary film featuring one hundred Chinese writers. But he is yet to produce much more in fiction or poetry.
Ma’s path-breaking story is ‘Xugou’ (A Fiction). He employs the technique of circular narrative and embedded storytelling to subvert conventional rules defining autobiography and fiction, reality and illusion. Central to all his fiction is the use of his own name to identify the author, the narrator and a fictional character, sometimes all at once. He attributes much of his inspiration to his encounters with the Tibetan world and its unique understanding of time, life and meaning. Despite his acclaimed avant-gardism, Ma writes in accessible language and plausible details for distinctive characters. More controversial is his exoticization of Tibet and eroticization of women, especially Tibetan women. In recycling the myth of the Shangri-la he is rather conventional.
But for a bohemian author intent on taking politics out of his writing, the Shangri-la stands to reverse the previous portrayal of Tibet as a living hell, and the eroticization of Tibetan women is meant to transgress the Confucian code of sexual propriety and expose its concurrent sexual hypocrisy.
Huot, Claire (2000). ‘Literary Experiments: Six Files’. In idem, China’s New Cultural Scene: A Handbook of Changes. Durham: Duke University Press, 7–48.
Ma, Yuan (1993). ‘Fabrications’. Trans. J.Q.Sun. In Henry Zhao (ed.), The Lost Boat: Avant-Garde Fiction from China. London: Wellsweep, 101–44.
——(1998). ‘More Ways Than One to Make a Kite’ (trans. Zhu Hong) and ‘A Wandering Spirit’ (trans. Caroline Mason). In Wang Jing (ed.), China’s Avant-Garde Fiction: An Anthology. Durham: Duke University Press, 246–83.
Yang, Xiaobin (2002). ‘Narratorial Parabasis and Mise-en-Abime: Ma Yuan as a Model’. In idem (ed.), The Chinese Postmodern: Trauma and Irony in Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 153–67.
YUE GANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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