Dai Houying

b. 1938; d. 1996, Nanzhao, Anhui
Writer
Much criticized for her novels defending humanist values, Dai Houying was among the first to portray the traumatic legacy of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and the Cultural Revolution Dai earned a degree in Chinese and worked as a literary critic in Shanghai until her persecution as a rightist in 1969. From 1979 until her murder in 1996, Dai taught literature at Fudan and Shanghai Universities.
Dai began writing fiction in 1978 with her trilogy on the fate of intellectuals, Death of a Poet (Shiren zhi si), Stones on the Wall (Ren a’ren), and Footsteps in the Void (Kongzhong de zuyin). Her momentous novel, Stones on the Wall (1980), inspired intense controversy for its advocacy of a Marxist Humanism and was banned between 1983 and 1986. Told through ten points of view, direct dialogue and some stream-of-consciousness narration, the novel takes place after the fall of the ‘Gang of Four’ but invokes dreams, regrets and extended flashbacks to confront the deep scars left by repressive political movements and their consequences for interpersonal relations. The novel confronts harsh cynicism and opportunism but also insists on the possibility for forgiveness, integrity and stalwart idealism. These values also inform Dai’s many novellas, short stories and essays. Especially perceptive is her novella Soft is the Chain (Suolian, shi rouruande, 1982) about a peasant woman’s bewilderment as the changing norms of her children’s generation repay with an empty honour her sacrifices to rules against remarriage that she had accepted as immutable.
Dai, Houying (1985).
Stones of the Wall. Trans. Frances Wood. London: Michael Joseph.
——(1992). ‘On Behalf of Humanism: The Confession of a Former Leftist’. Trans. Frances LaFleur. In Helmut Martin (ed.), Modern Chinese Writers: Self-Portrayals. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 27–33.
Pruyn, Carolyn S. (1988). Humanism in Modern Chinese Literature: The Case of Dai Houying. Bochum: Studienverlag Brockmeyer.
DEIRDRE SABINA KNIGHT

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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