Zhang Xianliang


Zhang Xianliang
b. 1936, Nanjing
Writer
Zhang Xianliang is representative of writers who were persecuted in the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. He was imprisoned for almost twenty years in northwest China, and re-emerged in 1979 with semi-autobiographical stories focusing on the suffering of intellectuals in labour camps, including: the short story ‘Soul and Flesh’ (Ling yü rou, 1980), which was made into a film entitled The Herdsman (Mumaren); the novellas Love in Prison (Tulao qinghua, 1981), Mimosa (Luhuashu, 1984) and Half of Man Is Woman (Nanren de yiban shi nüren, 1985); and the novels Getting Used to Dying (Xiguan siwang, 1989) and Nettle Soup (Wode puti shu, 1989). While writing about the suffering of Chinese intellectuals, he also wrote stories in the 1980s calling for economic reform, such as ‘Dragon Seed’ (Longzhong) and ‘Man of Character’ (Nanren de fengge).
Zhang reveals in frank detail, emotion and occasional black humour the harsh conditions under so-called labour reform and its devastating effect on all aspects of human life, including the degradation of human dignity through psychological emasculation. His boldness in depicting sexual deprivation aroused heated debate, along with accusations of male chauvinism. Zhang has visited many countries and his writing has been translated into many languages. Since the late 1990s he has also been in charge of a big enterprise in his home town of Yinchuan, Ningxia.
Yue, Gang (1999). ‘Postrevolutionary Leftovers: Zhang Xianliang and Ah Cheng’. In idem, The Mouth That Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China. Durham: Duke University Press, 184–221.
Zhang, Xianliang (1985).
Mimosa. Trans. Gladys Yang. Beijing: China Books and Periodicals.
——(1988). Half a Man Is Woman. Trans. Martha Avery. New York: W.W.Norton.
——(1995). Grass Soup (2nd ed.). Trans. Martha Avery. Boston: David Godine.
Zhong, Xueping (1994). ‘Male Suffering and Male Desire: The Politics of Reading Half a Man Is Woman’. In C.K.Gilmartin, G.Hershatter, L.Rofel and T.White (eds), Engendering China: Women, Culture, and the State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 175–91.
LEUNG LAIFONG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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