Wang Wenxing and the "Loss" of China

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  • Wang Wenxing is one of the most stylistically innovative writers of fiction in Sinophone literature. His novel Family Catastrophe (Jiabian 家變) is structured like no other. Many critics have commented on this, but this article is the first to offer a reading of the structure that explains in ideological terms why it is constructed in such a fashion. The bifurcated text forms an internal contestation that places iconoclastic critique of the Chinese tradition, especially filiality, against the feeling of nostalgia and compulsion toward reconciliation. The fact that the two narrative skeins are interwoven gives the reader a sort of see-saw experience of moving back and forth between these two narrative lines and of moving from one narrative tone to its diametric opposite. The radical critique of the tradition is also carried out on the surface level of language itself, for Wang Wenxing peppers his writing with neologism, unusually written characters, and other visual devices that call attention to the fabricated nature of the text. Finally, this essay also examines supporting characters in the novel that provide counterpoints to the main character and offer different perspectives on the historical experience of displacement and dispossession.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International