The 2008/09 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
with Author Yu Hua
Lecture: Yu Hua, author of “Brothers”
Brothers, Yu Hua’s most recent novel and longest work to date, broke sales records in China when its two volumes were published in 2005 and 2006. The epic tale follows two stepbrothers, Baldy Li and Song Gang, from their scrappy childhood during the Cultural Revolution through the economic and social liberalization of the post-Mao era. The novel deepens Yu Hua’s absurdist vision of life in modern China, a direction which has not sat well with all critics. While some have criticized Brothers for merely reiterating the author’s fixation on historical violence, others have been offended by its sensationalistic elements, such as a “national virgin beauty competition” that sets off a stampede for hymen reconstruction surgery among would-be contestants. Critics and fans alike agree that this is a book of extremes. The English translation of Brothers will be published by Pantheon in January 2009.
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
6:00pm-8:00pm (Pacific Time)
Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver, BC
Free & open to the public. Registration is now closed.
About the Speaker
Yu Hua, one of China’s most prominent contemporary novelists, was born into a family of doctors in Hangzhou in 1960 and grew up in the coastal town of Haiyan, Zhejiang. Following the Cultural Revolution, at his father’s urging, he worked for five years as a dentist before abandoning medicine for literature. He gained national attention in 1984 for a series of short stories distinguished by Kafka-esque scenes of banal cruelty rendered in plain language with surgical precision. Some critics have attributed the preponderance of the macabre in Yu Hua’s fiction to his childhood living near a hospital morgue and overhearing the nightly wailings of bereaved families. (Dentists also surface frequently in Yu’s fiction, notably Yanker Yu in Brothers.) These “experimentalist” stories explored the relationship between memory and the violence of the past through disjunctive narration, denial of character interiority, and other avant-garde stylistics.
Yu Hua’s first novel, Cries in the Drizzle (1990; English translation, 2007), a story about an ostracized boy growing up during the later years of the Mao era, signaled the beginning of a shift from conspicuously formalistic experimentation towards a more realist narrative style. To Live (1992; English translation, 2003), an existentialist masterpiece, is an old man’s account of his and his family’s struggle to survive the vicissitudes of life in rural China from the 1940s through the 1960s. The novel remains Yu Hua’s best-known work to date, having been adapted into a film in 1994, and, more recently, a 33-part television series. Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (1995; English translation, 2003), chronicles the physical and mental debilitation of a town-dweller whose habit of selling his own blood to feed his family eventually becomes an addiction. Like To Live, Chronicle was voted one of China’s ten most influential books of the 1990s by a wide array of critics and is reportedly being adapted into a film. Yu Hua’s works have won numerous literary awards, including Italy’s Premio Grinzane Award (1998) and the James Joyce Foundation Award (2002). He lives in Beijing.
About the Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture. Please visit the full lecture list here.