Linglei literature – non-mainstream literature with standard-deviation elements

Abstract. Linglei literature dates back to the 1990s and has a unique style, creating fierce “challenges” for traditional literature. On the one hand, this non-mainstream literature truly depicts “sensitive” issues in contemporary life such as a carefree and libertine lifestyle with things, drugs and sexual enjoyment. On the other hand, it highly values the game feature and liberates literature from political bonds. With a typical “non-traditional” characteristic and an effort to go against the rules and break the old “values” and “standards” within limits, Linglei fully expresses a sense of creativity and innovation in both content and artistically

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2013, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 66-70 This paper is available online at LINGLEI LITERATURE – NON-MAINSTREAM LITERATURE WITH STANDARD-DEVIATION ELEMENTS Nguyen Thi Mai Chanh Faculty of Philology, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. Linglei literature dates back to the 1990s and has a unique style, creating fierce “challenges” for traditional literature. On the one hand, this non-mainstream literature truly depicts “sensitive” issues in contemporary life such as a carefree and libertine lifestyle with things, drugs and sexual enjoyment. On the other hand, it highly values the game feature and liberates literature from political bonds. With a typical “non-traditional” characteristic and an effort to go against the rules and break the old “values” and “standards” within limits, Linglei fully expresses a sense of creativity and innovation in both content and artistically. Keywords: Linglei literatur, non-mainstream, standard-deviation. 1. Introduction Since the 1990s and the domination of the market economy, Chinese cultural and social life has undergone many changes such as the emergence of a consumption culture, the retirement of central values, the loss of a powerful voice and a consideration of facts by fringe element individuals. The number of “new-born” writers and “later-born” writers who possess a novel spirit of freedom has increased dramatically. Starting with works by authors born in the 1970s, then the real “boom” by those born in the 1980s, and then especially in 2004 and 2005, Linglei literature, just like the meaning of its name, has a unique style, fiercely challenging tradition. Escaping the dependence on central values, this unconventional culture faced a lot of negative opinion. Although it received quite a few compliments, Linglei faced a lot of fierce criticism. Some readers straightforwardly called Linglei non-literature, “cheap products” and even “rubbish” because it presents “crazy, decadent aesthetics” [1], “slimy” sex delectation and was “written not by the brain but by the body”. Most people of the current young generation find in Linglei their own state of loneliness and “secret confusion” as well as “the insolvable conflict between themselves and society, family and school” [2]. Above all, they appreciate the individual freedom. Though there is both positive and negative criticism, it is undeniable that this non-mainstream literature has a strongly existence and influence on young readers Received January 25, 2013. Accepted April 29, 2013. Contact Nguyen Thi Mai Chanh, e-mail address: 66 Linglei literature – non-mainstream literature with standard-deviation elements not only in China but also in some other countries. For example, there are some works which are not recognized and are banned from publication in China and yet are highly appreciated and becoming bestsellers in many other countries. They then go back to the home country as a hot topic for literature criticism, one example being Beijing doll, a first novel by Chun Sue. The name “Linglei” was originally “fringe type”, which means “different type” and can also mean “lumpen” or “thug”. However, according to the official Chinese dictionary, Chinese’s new dictionary (2004), it is defined as “dynamic lifestyle”. Therefore, Linglei has lost its initial negative meaning and has been recognized positively. On one hand, this non-mainstream literature truly depicts the “sensitive” issues in contemporary life such as a carefree and libertine lifestyle with things, drugs and sexual enjoyment. On the other hand, it highly values the game feature and liberates literature from political bonds. Accordingly, Linglei can be considered as “rebellious” due to the origin of doubts and “great narration” which goes against the government’s mainstream principles. Certainly, just because someone writes about characters who wish to rebel does not mean that the writer supports a lifestyle of aberration, isolation and loneliness. 2. Content 2.1. Firstly, it can be seen that Linglei literature has an obvious tendency of “a female god”. In a Confucian country like China, the rule is that “a natural order exists even before love” which is gender discrimination. Men are active and strong; women, on the contrary, are inactive, weak and created to allure men, though their natural shyness and fragility is to conquer men. During the long history of Chinese literature, the man’s voice is always dominant. However, in Linglei, the situation is reversed when the authors are female. . They are conscious of their own value and freely express themselves and their desire to strongly confirm their position. They become a hot topic for discussion on the Internet. Many female authors did not hesitate to expose their own devastated image and youth. It is not difficult for readers to recognize that some female characters represent the authors in the real life. What they experienced in their life was they depicted in their works. Numb, The Red kids and Beijing Dolls by Chun Sue are slices of her real life. Candies by Mien Mien is “a section of a perverted journey”, the experience of kicking the drug addiction as experienced by the writer herself, who dropped out of school, lived her life in the way she chose and then became addicted to drugs. Never give up is an autobiography by a beautiful girl living in the US, Uong Duong, telling a story about her own life of ups and downs. It can be said that the decision to put the authors’ photos on the book covers or use the authors’ names for the characters, such as Crazy like Ve Tue (Ve Tue), Te dai (Chun Sue), Your night, my day (Mien Mien), Beijing Dolls (Chun Sue), is very rare in conventional literature. Chun Sue once said that Beijing Dolls “records my youth and my generation’s youth. I really want everyone to read it in order to understand my youth, with its laughter and tears” [3]. In Linglei works, female main characters are the majority. They are mainly city girls who are talented, dynamic and stubborn, who “prefer to play with risk”, and who do not accept normal life but want to “experience everything” without being afraid to 67 Nguyen Thi Mai Chanh make mistakes. Traditional shyness is replaced by the sharp personalities of the @ era. Their bravery stems from the desire to escape from their current “boring, peaceful life”. However, no matter how great their effort, they eventually cannot find a release anywhere. The hurt, isolated and desperate characters immerse themselves in cigarettes, bars, drugs and prostitution, or they enter into a series of one-night-stands of “quickly come and easily go”; or they wander on an endless journey. In Beijing Dolls, there is a chapter called “Secluded” where the main character, desiring liberation, goes out to find freedom but comes to feel a doom and grey color of loneliness, desperately shouting “How lonely I am. But that is life”. In The Island of the Climbing Rose by An Ni Bao Boi, readers see a continuous state of loneliness. Walking on a crowded street, the character “I” feels “overwhelmed in a strange crowd”. To her, “loneliness is a form of existence which cannot be said, cannot be admitted nor felt. It does not need any implications or reasons. Because it has turned into air. Turned into the sound flowing in the blood. Turned into the dark.” The endless journey without destination, crossing a lot of strange lands, including Hi Chau, Dai Ly, Tay Tang, Sai Gon, Hanoi, Da Lat and Phnom Penh is naturally a journey to banish and ostracizing herself. She just goes “to see herself going”, “to see herself not being able to stop”. After the long days of wandering, she finally comes back home, still feeling lonely. 2.2. Totally different from female characters in conventional literature, those in Linglei works show themselves to be lecherous, easy, experienced in sex, actively approaching men and straightforward in feeling their natural desires: “There was snow falling in July when Ly Ky and I were together in his room. I arrived at 8 or 9 am when it was still a little bit dark, and he was waiting for me in his bed. I got into the dirty, warm blanket to cover my cold body. As usual, he held me tightly, as if he feared that I would run away or evaporate. We could never restraint our desire and appetite” (Beijing Dolls); “I widened my eyes, looking at the ceiling, trying to restraint my desire to scream out. The fire inside me had just been set; the anode and cathode of electricity massively flowed and intersected, so strongly and mysteriously. I was the anode, he was the cathode. I was the moon, he was the sun. I was water, he was the mountain, his breath existed inside his existence. Such feelings of delight drives one crazy” (My Meditation). . . More than ever before, the “prohibited land”, where previously only men were allow to step, is now accessible to women. They want to be themselves, to live truly and express the “new truth” of their generation. The way Linglei authors talk about sex is quite naked. “Blood”, I said to him. “Ah. . . ” He used the tissue to clean it, then threw it to the floor” (Beijing Dolls); They understand that the desire for sex is natural and there is no need to hide it. It is Not necessarily related to love, yet love is usually tied to the discovery of the sex experience. Most girls love from a very early age and no one seems to have a first love who is their last. They are overwhelmed by the dream of love and in that dream , feel less lonely, “find some warmth”, “are saved from isolation”. Coco inMyMeditation (Ve Tue) said: “I always need love. . . without it , it seems that I cannot breathe, cannot survive. I hide love in my mouth, under my pillow, in my..., write it down on paper” [4]. No character has fewer than two loves. They consider love to be a “sensitive game” or “a race to see who conquers who first, who dumps who first, who forgets who first.” “She” (The Island of Climbing Roses) 68 Linglei literature – non-mainstream literature with standard-deviation elements admitted to Eric, the man she loves, that, “Though I loved many other men, there are only two reasons for this. They follow me so aggressively or I feel lonely.” Chun Sue in Beijing Dolls experienced several lovers by the time she reached the age of sixteen. The first guy she loved was Ly Ky – a poor painting student with a desperate spirit, “thinking about suicide sometimes.” They knew each other via a “Friend finding” series in a music magazine, something which is very popular among the younger generation. During their first meeting when she visited his room, knowing very little about each other, they had sex. The girl “was not aware of what had happened. . . Everything went so quickly, too quickly to stop.” Bac Ha was her fifth lover. She had sex with him without caring whether he loved her or not. “He called out the names of other girls when we made love. . . with a blank look even when he gave his body to me”, she was shocked, but still “decided to continue the game to the end.” Having sex to escape feelings of worry and risk, these girls experienced “broken love, eventually”, and came to realize that what they love “is making love itself,” and love is just an illusion: “Love. Subtle, like standing near a lake, seeing it shining brightly. Touch it, then find out that it is only an illusion” (The Island of Climbing Roses). There is rarely a feeling of missing something during the first days of a new love, or the feeling of passion, or the silence after delight. Passion, after all, confirms the existence of lonely people because having sex gives them the feeling that they are alive and living in passion, with their true personality in a close relationship with another human being. In some aspects, sex is a way to bring to the surface one’s humanity, to express the will to fight against compromise in a doomed era when the meaning of life is not at all clear. However, it is not expected that physical touch can save a lonely soul and, when talking about love, Linglei authors do not praise love, and they talk about having sex not to satisfy sex desire but to use love and sex to “confirm the sense of isolation and the state of instability in a broken, messy world.” These people are lonely even when they are not alone, even during what might seem to be their happiest moments. 2.3. Linglei literature has a rebel narration which is in opposition to the traditional pattern. Disclaiming the “great narration”, forsaking the role of the all-knowing third-person narrator, the stories are often told by a first-person narrator using a combination of mental fragments and time inversion between the past and present. These are the stories of the “self”. The “game note” characteristic is clearly expressed in the loose structure and messy narrative in which the narrator tells whatever she wants without following any rules. In many books, logic is marked by a progressive order indicated by number or letter such as Part 1, Part 2; Chapter 1, Chaper 2; A-B-C-D; or E1-E2, while inside each part, discrete stories can be dismantled, moved and rearranged. Beijing Dolls by Chun Sue is like a diary without dates and months, recording the youth of the main character Chun Sue with her unsatisfied love. Candies by Mien Mien is another diary about the devastating youth of many characters, in which many women met up in an aberrant life, though it focuses on the main character Mien Mien, a 16-year old girl involved in a bar love with a lecherous man, which turns into a tragedy. The notes are random with discrete minor circumstances. In the beginning of Beijing Dolls, there are “some introductions to some lovers”, something not found in other stories. It has a list of 69 Nguyen Thi Mai Chanh 29 items that include “My name. . . ”, “West X High School. . . ”, “a bunch of poems. . . ”, “My friends. . . ”, “Some guys I liked. . . ”, “Dying hair. . . ”, etc. Even the name of the chapter tells us nothing. For example, chapter 1 is “Thien Son Dieu Phi Tuyet” from the poem Giang Tuyet by Lieu Tong Nguyen. There are some titles which are misleading, such as “Another coward”, “Very boring”, “He is my only friend”, etc. Both these books, which are typical of this Linglei writing, are not only full of sex but also of words such as “shit”, “damn”, and “bitch”,... – all of which are not used in mainstream literature. Likewise, the story-telling and non-telling, at the same time, in The Island of Climbing Roses by An Ni Bao Boi is a discrete combination of “shattered memoirs” with mixed feelings. Compared to the two aforementioned books, this one is not an easy read because the stream of feelings is usually blocked and does not following a fix line. Black Crows by Cuu Dan is also a story by the character Quynh Dao, a beautiful, young girl who went to Singapore to fulfill her dream and who is then destroyed both physically and mentally. Unlike the majority, Thuy Tien has Gone on the Golden Carp by Truong Duyet Nhien is told in the third-person and yet actually is a first-person narration, that of a young mother telling her bitter memories to her three-month-year old child. A stormy world in her soul is depicted in the book which is very emotional and touching. It can be said that each Linglei book is uniquely expressed, reflecting many naked aspects of diverse and very human lives. They show the modern way of writing and thinking which has grown out of traditional literature. 3. Conclusion The current context of an “infinite” world allows literature to exist multi-centrally. The non-mainstream lines do not eliminate one another, but tend to penetrate, take the central place and form a new center. There is no eternal center. “Non-mainstream”, though staying out of “the main”, is still the inevitable dynamic element of the whole literature. Non-mainstream space is for creativity. Linglei literature with its “non-traditional” characteristics, by going against the “rules” and breaking with old values and standards, within limits, is quite creative and innovative both in content and artistically . The dramatic changes in Linglei style have attracted more movements in the contemporary way of reading and thinking. REFERENCES [1] Hong Minh, 2000. Looking back at long-story novels in 1999. The Magazine of Researching modern and contemporary Chinese literature, No 2, (according to Le Huy Tieu in Chinese novels in the renovation). Publishing house Education, 2011, p.101. [2] Chun Sue, 2005. Beijing dolls (translated by Trac Phong). Literary Publishing House, p.7. [3] Chun Sue, 2005. Beijing dolls (translated by Trac Phong). Literary Publishing House, p.5. [4] Ve Tue, 2007. My meditation (translated by Nguyen Le Chi). Women’s Publishing House, p.106. 70