Pa Chin (Pseudonym of Li Fei-Kan)
Pa Chin (Pseudonym of Li Fei-Kan) 1904–
Pa Chin is a Chinese novelist and short story writer. He chose as the target of his early work the social injustice existing in pre-revolutionary China, focusing in particular on the decadence of the traditional Chinese family system. His subsequent works were also informed by his strong social and political views. Pa Chin often sacrificed form to content, concentrating the thrust of his narrative on his philosophical convictions rather than technique. Although he was deeply committed to the Communist Revolution in China, his work was found lacking in didactic purpose by the Chinese Communist Party. He then rewrote his novels to conform to the rigid guidelines defined by the party. Despite his concessions to the party, Pa Chin was purged during the Cultural Revolution of 1966. He was subsequently "revived" in mainland China in 1977.
[The great change in my writing] dates back to the movement launched by all our people to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea at the end of 1950…. (p. 85)
Life is not an affair of make-believe…. Nor can you counterfeit emotion. The struggles on the Korean front were so fierce that people felt strongly and knew exactly what they loved and hated. Living among new men of this kind, I could not fail to be influenced and inspired by them. That is why even today, eleven years later, I still remember that phase in my life so distinctly and am still writing about some of the soldiers I met in those days. (p. 86)
[My] past writings simply expressed the sorrows of men who had lost their youth, freedom of action, happiness and love, simply exposed the iniquities and injustice of the old system and the old society. But I could only diagnose the disease without prescribing a remedy…. My readers, like myself, were in agony in that suffocating atmosphere. We all wanted to destroy the old system and never stopped looking for a way out…. I can say that in none of my pre-liberation writing did I give way to despair. Even in the darkest days I never lost faith. But I could not shake off my agony because I had not linked myself with the people's revolutionary struggle. I floundered on, my ideas conflicting with my actions, my reason conflicting with my emotions, my ideal conflicting with reality. This went on till the liberation...
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More than any other modern Chinese writer, Pa Chin throughout his career has been the spokesman for youth. He wrote for youth and about youth, mainly about the young intellectuals. Pa Chin's works present a composite portrait of the young men of China in a transitional period, a counterpart of the portrait of Western young men in nineteenth-century European literature.
When describing his young contemporaries, Pa Chin portrays a variety of types, including those who live according to the traditional Chinese pattern, and those who espouse modern individualism and live a selfish life unmindful of the fate of their fellow countrymen. He concentrates his attention, however, on those who, to use his own words, "began to shoulder the responsibility for their country." The main characters of almost all of his novels are rebels and revolutionists. (pp. 2-3)
Pa Chin was not only a creative writer who described society but a revolutionary who wanted to change it…. [He] stated that he was so completely absorbed in the substance of his novels and short stories that he could not pay attention to their form. (p. 4)
Pa Chin describes the critical years [in China] from 1919 to 1923 in his most popular literary work, the trilogy Chi-liu (Turbulent stream), which consists of the three novels Chia (Family), Ch'un (Spring), and Ch'iu (Autumn). (p. 70)
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Nathan K. Mao
With little idea of what a novel should be, but himself full of grievances, Pa Chin sought [in his first novel Destruction] to picture an unjust society and preach its destruction. Clumsily, he presents his vision of a corrupt society…. (p. 43)
The novel has many flaws. Pa Chin did not plan it as a coherent whole; instead he worked piecemeal, stringing together memories of his past and ideas obtained from what he had heard from friends. The effect, not surprisingly, is that in almost every chapter the tension falls as the author switches from one episode to the next, making no effort to consolidate the episodes into units as large as possible. (p. 44)
The primitiveness of Pa Chin's narrative technique is reflected in his characterization and in the development of his thesis…. [The] thesis that society is unjust and hence deserves to be destroyed is not supported by factual details. He has simply failed to present convincingly the evils of the ruling class and the sufferings of the poor, or to explore the roots of social evil and the importance of collective action.
His prose is readable; its sentences follow a subject-and-predicate construction. Generally eschewing flourishes, he relies on a simple vocabulary and on downright plainness…. (pp. 44-5)
Despite its obvious flaws, Destruction is made up of the usual themes, attitudes, and preoccupations of the Chinese...
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