The author Fang Fang, born Wang Fang, was born in May, 1955, in Jiangsu province’s capital Nanjing, though her family has its ancestral roots in Jiangxi province’s Pengze County. Fang Fang was brought up in Wuhan, Hubei province, where she worked as a docker after graduating from high school in 1974. In 1978 she was admitted to Wuhan University’s Chinese department, and served as both president and editor-in-chief of two magazines: “Contemporary Celebrities” and “Changjiang Literature and Art”. She is currently the chairwoman of the Hubei Writers Association, a member of the committee of the China Writers Association, and a nationally accredited “Grade 1” author. Her novels include Chronicle of Black Mud Lake, Water Under Time and Wuchang City. She has also published collections of written sketches like Seeing the Old Mansion on Mount Lu andThe Tumultuous Past of Hankou, novellas like Scenery, The Running Flames, and Love and its Lack are Emblazoned on the Heart Forever, and other collections including The Collected Works of Fang Fang (five volumes) and The Collected Novellas of Fang Fang(seven volumes). Novels and essays together, Fang Fang has to this day published over 100 works, many of which have been translated into languages like French, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, English, and Spanish, and published abroad.
The publication of Fang Fang’s novella The Scenery was lauded by critics as having “opened up a new chapter for ‘new realism’”, propelling her to the status of one of the genre’s most representative authors. The Scenery tells the story of a husband and wife who live in an urban area populated by travelers, and the dramatic vicissitudes and opportunities that have shaped their lives since before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. They live crammed away in what Fang Fang describes as a “Henan shed”, a 13-square-meter hut they built themselves on the banks of a river in the city of Hankou. There, they start their family of seven sons and two daughters. Fang Fang tells the story from the perspective of the soul of a dead person, adding a distinctly unfamiliar narrative effect to the writing. The book lays bare the true nature of survival, at once doing away with the ideologies that have historically hidden it from view and instilling the narrative with an astounding sense of both freshness and realism.
The novel Chronicle of Black Mud Lake uses a chronological structure to recount the tumultuous, tragic fates that befell China’s intelligentsia between the mid-1950s and early ’60s. The language is honest and natural, describing only the trivial matters of daily life. Yet it is was the trivial matters of daily life that sapped the minds and talents of the country’s intelligentsia. The silent tragedy of this sapping was even more shocking than the loud tragedies with their soundtracks of painful wails. The novella A Heart Pierced By 10,000 Arrows, the movie adaption of which was met with critical acclaim upon screening across the country, tells the tragic tale of a Wuhan woman Li Baoli. As a young woman, Li is beautiful and capable, yet has an unforgiving streak in her temperament. Victim to her acerbic tongue, Li’s husband Ma Xuewu lives each and everyday in a state of oppression, and ends up seeking to relieve his depression by starting a love affair with a typist. Upon finding out their secret, Li reports the couple to the police, who then capture the couple while they are staying in a hotel. When he finds out that it was his wife who reported him, Ma jumps into a river and ends his life. Their son, Xiao Bao, cannot forgive his mother for the suffering she caused his father, and cuts all contact with her upon graduating from university. For the sake of his upbringing, Li had stomached humiliation and found work shouldering a pole to carry wares. In this story, Fang Fang achieves an exploration of the flight in the fates of women from seeking to break through the barriers around them to successfully breaking through the barriers within them.
In 2011, Fang Fang was awarded the outstanding author prize at the “Chinese Literature Media Awards”. In the words of the prize-givers: “Fang Fang’s novels are honest, real, epic in their narratives, and full of vigor and valor. Her language is both delicate and honed, speaking with real emotion of the ordinary world around us. She communicates profound concepts with such simple expressions, and is able to create the most expansive of narrative structures and most awe-inspiring of ambiences. Using the quotidian demands of day-to-day life, and utilizing the emptiness that comes after the death of passion as a metaphor for the fragility of life, she is a witness to the complexity, tragedy, and tenacity of the human spirit.”
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