Over this Thanksgiving vacation, I was able to find some time to work on my short writing. Although this writing is not a condensed historical account that covers every aspect of the communist society in China, it unfolds a unique perspective on viewing the history. Given the free time I had during break, I finished most of the writing. In this upcoming weekend, I plan to wrap up this short story, enrich its content and polish its language. As soon as this writing is finished, I will quickly start my study on Eastern European literature because I want to finish reading one more book for my project before this semester ends. In this blog post, I would like to share more about my writing process and talk about the challenges I have met.
After two months of research on literature under communism, I have found my past learning experience rather fruitful. Beginning by examining Marxism and later indulging into reading books related with the three generations’ struggles in China, I have gained a closer look at the stories of both my country and my family. I finished reading Mao’s Harvest and am currently working on Wild Swans and Beijing Coma. Personally, I am very fond of the last book because the author uses the perspective of a man who is disillusioned from a coma, ten years after he was shot in the Tiananmen Square protest. This book has been banned in China, and thus I found it very precious to read it here.
“Beijing Coma” in French Edition
In this blog post, I am going to illustrate my thinking process when I formulated the opening of my short story. Over the past week and half, I had a difficult time in finding the optimum way of storytelling. I want to give the readers a unique perspective in looking at the history while feeling connected with the messages. Therefore, it has to be somewhat personal as well as informative. In addition, I faced a dilemma in which I needed to balance the portion of reality in a fictional writing – I want to bring those hidden family stories under public exposure, but at the same time, I want to protect the feelings of those who are involved. I have drafted three different versions of telling the story, and they are listed as below.
Over this past weekend, I conducted my first interview with my grandmother. She was born three years before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and forced to leave her hometown, Shanghai, when the Cultural Revolution occurred. Her stories not only enrich my knowledge with regards to that period of time but also help me to collect resources for my fictional writing. This interview was mainly focused on exploring the change in visions of marriage over three generations. As I am currently reading the book Wild Swans, I found out that marriage, a huge component of people’s lives, can be morphed into different structures in the wake of history. Consequently, the Cultural Revolution under Communist Regime might have also changed the customs of marriage.
After meeting with my mentor Teacher Pat last Thursday, I have decided to take a detour from my study on literature under communism and explore the threat of censorship in storytelling. In the wake of local governments’ interference with freedom of press and speech, many people’s stories of hardships are either hidden or distorted. Through this perspective, I have examined a new type of struggle among people. What’s more, this aspect of knowledge helps me to be more prepared for the future interviews I conduct with family members who experienced the Cultural Revolution.
The night has given me dark eyes
But I use them to look for light
– Gu Cheng, Mao’s Harvest
I have always been fascinated by this short yet concise poem as stated above. When I first read it in middle school, I felt perplexed by its deep connotations. How come, in the poet’s perspective, the night gives him dark eyes? Why does he use them to search for light? With a lack of understanding on the historical context, I found it somehow difficult to delve into the essential meaning contained in this poem.
In last week’s blog entry, I briefly introduced the topic of my independent project–literature under Communism–and used the design of a panopticon to illustrate the incorporation of surveillance with disciplinary mechanism. I believe the transition of punishment from body to soul will be a reoccurring theme throughout my readings on common people’s lives under communist parties. With this thought in mind, this week, I explored some aspects of Karl Marx’s view on human history, Lenin’s reinterpretation on communist ideology, and the political system Mao implemented in China in order to better understand the fundamental theories behind communism.
In the late 18th century, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham proposed an unprecedented yet forceful prison system, a Panopticon, to automatize the enforcement of power and to regulate the inmates from body to soul, thus reducing the cost and enhance the efficiency in running the system.
The disciplinary mechanism of this architectural figure can be applied in many institutions. Continue reading