"I write to be closer to what's real. I mean the real present, not the reality of life. Actually I don't think life is real. It's a mixture of truth and lies." Says Chinese writer Yu Hua of his writing.
Yu is one of China's most successful pioneer writers, renowned for his avant-garde style of language and structure, as well as themes about everyday people caught in a sinister web of history and traditions.
Yu was born in Hangzhong in 1960 and began to write in his twenties. When he was one year old, his family moved into Haiyan, a small town in Zhejiang Province. Influence by pressure from his parents he first once worked as a dentist, But five years later he left dentistry to become a writer. In 1984 he published his first short story On the Road at eighteen. His later works include To Live, Crying out in the Drizzle, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, The Boy at Sunse and the most recently Brothers.
Yu's novels have been translated into numerous languages and are popular in France, Italy, Germany, British, Japan and Korea. Some critics think he should be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. To Live, perhaps Yu's most successful work, won the Grinzane Cavour Award in Italy in 1998. The novel was adapted into a movie directed by Zhang Yimou, which in turn won the Grand Jury and Best Actor prizes at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994.
Like his other novels, To Live is set against a background of a series of historical events, covering the time from the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949) to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Explaining the theme of the novel in an interview, Yu said, "It is about forbearance: forbearance for every tribulation in life, even the crudest one. It tells about how the Chinese people lived their lives in those decades. Inevitably the novel involves China's history, but I don't intend to present history. My responsibility and interest as a writer lie in creating real people in my work, real Chinese people." Yu compares writing to a road longer than life. In every stage of his writing, Yu has come across various difficulties. Yu has a keen interest in music, especially for classical music. He is enchanted music's narrative structure and admits his Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, which is presented in dialogues, uses techniques borrowed from Yueju Opera's style.
Yu is deeply influenced by western literature and more than 40 percent of the books he owns are translations of foreign literature. He once said Chinese tradition gave his him life, while western literature taught him how to write.
Yu's favorite writers include Yasunari Kawabata, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Alain Robbe-Grillet and their influences are clear in his Yu's works.
Among Chinese writers, Yu has a great deal of respect for Lu Xun, known as the father of modern Chinese literature. Lu Xun works use, succinct language to cover broad concepts, a method which Yu attributes to Lu Xun's liking of details. believes that a writer's insight is revealed through how he deals with details in novels. He stresses that real details are much more important than real plotfor works to be convincing.
His latest novel Brothers tells the story of two orphaned (step) brothers who depend on each other but later fall out and become enemies because of a beautiful girl. After China's opening up, the two men choose very different paths - one becomes rich and famous while the brother who won the girl commits suicide in poverty. Yu is reluctant to summarize the story because its romantic charm depends on interconnecting the plots and all the small details.
Yu published the first part of Brothers last August, ten years after his last novel. Although it achieved great commercial success, the novel was not entirely welcomed by critics. But Yu says he still stuck to his own style in writing the second part of the novel, and wasn't influenced by the critics. At over half a million words, Brothers is the longest of Yu's works.
The second part of Brothers was published recently, thrusting Yu into the spotlight again. But Yu insists that he's just one tree among a forest of writers. Any of them could grow into a big tree, but none of them could ever replace each other.
(chinaculture April 14, 2006)