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Writing The Actual

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Chapter Summary

If one think of realism as a recuperation of immediate experience from the dualism of Enlightenment thinking, the Chinese term zhenshi offers rich possibilities. If one were to try to translate zhenshi into English, one would immediately confront a variety of related terms in both Chinese and English, none of which corresponds perfectly. Writing actuality in modern China must be understood as having two major phases. The first was the heyday of social realistic fiction and reportage literature in the 1930s, largely under the influence of the international proletarian literary movement and writings on the Spanish Civil War. The second was investigative and social critical reportage literature after 1949, roughly 1978 to 1986. Writing actuality relates to more than reportage: it is a fundamental orientation in modern Chinese literature toward writing about the contemporary world with a view to uncovering and fleshing out the living truth of history.

Keywords: enlightenment thinking; modern Chinese literature; realism; Spanish Civil War; writing actuality; zhenshi



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