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Rescuing Love from the Nation: Love, Nation, and Self in Xu Xu’s Alternative Wartime Fiction and Drama

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This essay explores the wartime fiction and drama of Xu Xu (徐訏, 1908–80), one of China’s most widely read authors of the Republican-period (1912–49). By placing Xu Xu’s popular spy fiction into the context of literary production during the war years, the essay illustrates that Xu Xu’s oeuvre protested against an ideology of moral collectivism in which the individual had to submit self to a higher political authority that professed to represent the will of the nation. Through a literary aesthetic that largely defied the demands for a literature of resistance that subjugated the individual self to the national collective, Xu’s ostensibly autobiographical I-novels brought comfort to urban readers whose personal salvation was rarely addressed in official wartime narratives depicting the nation in peril and calling for collective sacrifice. At the same time, Xu’s confident cosmopolitan heroes satisfied urban readers’ desire for political agency in the raging international conflict. Furthermore, this paper explores Xu Xu’s wartime drama through which Xu attempted to piece together a quasi-existentialist vision of the individual and human experience that was revealed only under the extreme condition of war.


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