Our guest from this week’s The Buddha in the World program, Pankaj Mishra, wrote an interesting piece in the New York Times about the literary scene in China, specifically focusing on the work of Yu Hua and his novel Brothers. Not specifically related to what he was talking about in the program, but worth a read nonetheless. His skeptical take on the Asian dance with Western modernity continues.
When I first met Yu one evening in Shanghai in 2006, he confidently described to me his vision of “Brothers” as a social and moral critique of China’s evolution. Yet he was suffering from a version of postpublication angst common among authors — the cankerous feeling that his work, and its vision of China lurching between political authoritarianism, extreme poverty, consumerist excess and moral depravity, was not being taken seriously enough. High sales and popular acclaim had not taken the sting out of the venomous reviews. But almost three years of a sustained critical assault on “Brothers” seems to have hardened Yu. He now sees the attacks in sociological rather than literary terms, as exposing a fault line between generations, and his detractors as typical of China’s new nationalists — people too young to have any memory of their country’s previous traumas but obsessed with boosting China’s image as a rising power vis-à-vis the West.