22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Ma Yuan

Ma Yuan was born in the People’s Republic of China in 1953.  He studied Chinese at the Liaoning University in northeast China, and between 1982 and 1987 worked as a journalist in Tibet.  In 1989 he returned to China, where he moved from city to city trying out jobs in diverse cultural sectors.  During this peripatetic period emerged the collection of essays ‘Liangge Nanren’ (Engl: Two Men). Since 2000 he has taught Classical Literature and Creative Writing at Tongji University in Shanghai.  His two volumes of essays, ‘Xuguo Zhi Dao’ (1997; Engl: The Knife of Fabrication) and ‘Yuedu Dashi’ (Engl: Reading the Masters), offer an overview of his appreciation of literature and his approach towards Creative Writing.  Ma Yuan is regarded as the most important pioneer of modern Chinese avantgarde literature.  His stories about Tibetan culture, religion and mysticism, which he wrote during his residence there between 1984 and 1989, are among the most influential works of the new literary movement of the time. As opposed to the strict realism of modern Chinese literature which prevailed under the influence of Mao Zedong, the young avantgarde writers dared to experiment aesthetically with literary forms and narrative strategies, amongst other things, the result of the new availability of modern western literature in Chinese translation.  The vital pulse therefore of Ma Yuan’s short story ‘The Goddess of the River Llasa’ (1984), with its labyrinthian construction, reminds one of Jorge Luis Borges.  He also opens the story ‘The Wandering Spirit’, which takes place in Llasa, with a quote from Borges.  By coincidence, the narrator named Ma Yuan discovers through an old Tibetan the existence of a few rare silver coins.  He then becomes involved in a plan to steal the precious coins.  In the complex multi-levelled structure of the story the author combines oral strategies, which every now and then abruptly interrupt the narrative flow with fantastic and fairy-tale like elements. The narrator’s voice is conspicuously present in the narration of the allegedly autobiographical events.  “After Ma all the taboos on fiction writing disappeared, and the search for an idiosyncratic style became the writer’s legitimate pursuit.” A few of Ma Yuan’s short stories have been translated into English, among them ‘Die zhiyao de sanzhong fangfa’ (Engl: More Ways Than One to Make a Kite).  Ma Yuan lives in Shanghai.

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