Li Rui

Li Rui
b. 1949, Beijing
A writer of the Root-seeking school (Xungen pai), Li Rui began publishing fiction in 1974 when he was a ‘sent-down youth’ (zhiqing) in the area of the Luliang mountains in Shanxi province. He did not make his name, however, until the publication of Deep Earth (Houtu, 1988), a collection of eighteen short stories. In a concise style, Li blends his sympathy with a careful depiction of the helplessness and stagnation of peasant life against an austere landscape. Li’s first novel, Silver City (Old Site; Jiuzhi, 1993), is a gripping family saga based on his father’s experience as an underground Communist, and the latter’s tragic death in a cadre school. Li’s preoccupation with peasant life continued in his second and third novels, No-Wind Tree (Wufeng zhishu, 1996) and No Clouds for Ten Thousand Miles (Wanli wuyun, 1998). In both novels, Li uses peasants as first-person narrators, letting them speak their minds and feelings, creating a polyphonic effect. The skilful use of dialect further adds an authentic flavour. Because Li sets his rural stories in the area of the Luliang mountains, some critics associate him with the ‘Potato School’ (Shanyaodan pai), which began in the mid 1940s and flourished in the 1950s with writers such as Zhao Shuli (1906–70) and Ma Feng (1922–). Actually, Li’s peasant tales are more concerned with the gloomy aspects of rural China than with the optimistic depiction of socialist construction characteristic of this school.
Li, Rui (1997). Silver City. Trans. Howard Goldblatt. New York: Henry Holt.
——(1995). ‘Sham Marriage’. Trans. Schaeffer and Wang. In Howard Goldblatt (ed), Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused: Fiction from Today’s China. New York: Grove, 90–8.
——(1990). ‘Electing a Thief’. Trans. J.Kinkley. In Helen Siu (ed.), Furrows: Peasants, Intellectuals, and the State: Stories and Histories From Modern China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 201–11.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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