Zhu Zhai, male, Han nationality, born in March, 1923, is a native of
Be Thankful and Never Stop Writing
I knew of Mr Zhu Zhai for many years, but it was in 1997 that I got acquainted with him after I worked in the Contemporary Literature Research Office. I used to work in the Modern Literature Research Office, so I always wanted to seek the advice of professional researchers from older generations. I appreciate his knowledge and academic achievements very much. I felt grateful for the activity-慪oung scholars seeking advice from and changing views with academicians and honored academicians?which provided me the opportunity to learn from Mr Zhu Zhai.
After a big operation 2 years ago he came back to work as soon as he had recovered. He has devoted all his efforts and energy to literature research since he worked at the Literature Research Office in 1958. His works, such as 慖n Terms of Life? 慡elected Works of Zhu Zhai Literature Comments? 慖nspiration and Meditation? 慜ngoing Speculation?/I>, etc., chief editor of 慖deological Trend History of Chinese Contemporary Literature? 慛ew Trend of Chinese Contemporary Literature? etc. and essays such as 慍elebrity Documentary of Chinese Modern Literature? 慐ssays of Lu Shao?/I>, etc. have had a great effect on the field of contemporary literature.
Liu Ping (hereafter referred to as Liu): Mr Zhu Zhai, I was deeply moved when I saw you working. What makes you continue to write?
Zhu Zhai (hereafter referred to as Zhu): I could never forget two things in my life: one is my hometown and villagers and the others are my life journey and revolutionary forces. In other words, I could not grow up without the former and I could not make these achievements without the cultivation of the latter. I came from a village I left 70 years ago. Nonetheless, wherever I go, I will never forget my hometown together with my life journey and comrades. For this reason, I disdained those who looked down upon civilians and those who satirized revolutionary history and revolutionary forces. It is life experiences rather than revolutionary understanding that make me think like that. History is composed of people that are unknown to the public and it is the blood and lives of numerous revolutionaries that made the revolution successful. It is a lively fact rather than an abstract concept. The sacrifice of revolutionaries gives us life, so as Chen Yun mentioned, we should live instead of those who were sacrificed. Such affection affects my view of society and observing life.
When I studied in Yan An Art and
As long as I recall fellow countrymen and revolutionary martyrs, I feel very small and uneasy and in turn want to do something, which is possibly the reason that I dare not slow down till today. Since you have come here, I am very glad to talk with you about my life and work. However, I抦 afraid that you might call my experiences, glorious history.
Liu: Could you talk about your childhood first?
Zhu: I was formerly known as Zhu Hongxun, I was born to a poor farmer family in
My family was prosperous with 2 or 3 acres of land. There were 2 brothers in my family before I was born. I was not so popular in such a family ?little food and large population. Fortunately, I could go to school because my two brothers had already worked. I was not necessary in my family, so I could try my luck besides farming. After all, I was not sure if I could become successful, so I was also a laborer in my family. I would stop going to school in the busy farming seasons. When I was in Primary School, I could do all the farm work expept ploughing, etc.
In school, I won a scholarship of 2 Yuan each term by virtue of my excellent grades. At that time, I could pay the tuition fee, bought a suit of children抯 cloth and had breakfast as well. I usually had breakfast and endured hunger rather than go home to have lunch, so I could save a meal for my family.
After graduating from senior high school, I wanted to register for the examination at the provincial village normal school in my county (namely, No. 5 Normal School of Shandong Province), but my family was not capable of paying the registration fee of 1 Yuan. It was a girl that got along well with me that gave me 1 Yuan. I felt depressed when I took her money. My parents felt sorry as well, so they were determined to agree me with about registering for the examination.
The normal village school was provincial so that it recruited new students from all over China there were more than 2,000 applicants. It only admitted 70 students, so the examination was very strict. The tuition fee was 24 Yuan which was the price of 1 acre. However, there was an allowance of 5 Yuan for each village teacher whereas the food bill was only 2 Yuan. Hence, it left 3 Yuan to pay the debt, which my family decided to use to borrow mony at usury rates to help me go to school.
Liu: Life was so hard at that time and you lived in a rural area, how did you progress onto the revolutionary road?
Zhu: We could not live without family and society. I lived in a remote county and the May 4th Movement had passed years before I was born. The Northern Expeditionary Army was south of the
My teachers in the Primary School were very excellent and some of them were secret Communist Party members. Mr Ma, a Chinese teacher at the normal village school and the husband of my Chinese teacher ?Zhao Huiping, was a secret Communist Party member. Sometimes, he took over classes for Mrs Zhao and taught current events, such as, 憇peeches about the current political events of the Nanjing Government? 慣he Event of Guangxi and Guangdong? 慏ouble Twelve? 慞uppet regime in the east of Hebei Province? 憃ccupation of the three provinces in northeast China? etc. Although I didn抰 understand what he taught, I understood some of them tacitly. For example, when he taught the invasion of Japanese in northeast
I entered the provincial village normal school with good grades in the summer of 1937. The Lugouqiao Incident was the prelude to the anti-Japanese war, but the authorities still compromised. Even if Beiping and
After the struggle of war, the exiled schools in the enemy-occupied areas were scattered all over the place. In 1938, all schools in
Liu: Who were the most helpful and influential people on your way to revolution?
Zhu: I have read something indeed on the march in to exile. We travelled along the river all the way to the headstream. I saw a lot along the way, namely, magnificent scenery and extremely poor villages, both of which were in sharp contrast. When I moved from
I was thankful to my cousin, Zhu Hongen. Although we became classmates because we entered the village normal school at the same time, he had been more mature than me since he was 3 or 4 years older than me and had been a primary school teacher for 3 or 4 years before enrolment. It was him that led me to the revolutionary road and took care of me at the critical moment. In addition, I was deeply affected by Li Guangtian, although he didn抰 teach me directly. He accompanied us from
Liu: It is said that Yanan was very poor at that time, so how did you get to Yan抋n?
Zhu: In 1939, the struggle came to a standoff phase. The National Party fought against the Japanese negatively but the Communist Party actively, which intensified the contradictions day by day. The School watched over the students and restricted the activities of progressive students, like the Reading Club that we organized, etc. In the summer, I got two big demerits and two small demerits due to my direct contradictions of the School, which was a final warning to me because the School stipulated that students would be expelled because of three big demerits. Meanwhile, it was also a warning to the Reading Club. As a result, all the students discussed and managed to go to Yan抋n. After many discussions, it was practicable to ask the offices of Chongqing Eighth Route Army (called Eighteenth Army Group at that time) and 慩inhua Daily?in
Liu: When you arrived in Yanan, you must have felt happy because you realized your dream and ideal. Then, what kind of activities did you take part in there? What impression did it leave on you? What were your deepest feelings and thoughts?
Zhu: When I reached Yan抋n, it was like home. At the beginning of 1940, I entered the Literature Department of Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts. The School changed its original teaching plan for us, that is, send the students to the upper ground; in contrast, it began to emphasize normalization. It didn抰 only train fighting soldiers, but also cultivated intellectuals that would construct the New China. Meanwhile, it carried out the three years of university with a foreign language as the compulsory course. However, these practices were criticized as 慶losed improvement?during the 慠ectification Movement?afterwards. Fortunately, it was really a blessing in disguise because we received some normal education and read some literature works systematically. The director of the Literature Department was He Qifang who taught 慍reation Practice? The teachers were all famous, like Zhou Libo, whose 慡elected Readings of Masterpieces?was welcomed by all the students and from which we benefited a lot.
What impressed me most in Yan抋n were the interviews with Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi and Hu Qiaomu. It was probably in 1944 that the investigations of cadres came to a stage of discrimination, so I sent materials to Yangjialing. I first came to find Zhou Enlai who listened to my report carefully and then asked our advice. After I reaccounted the report briefly, he stood to make a phone call and talked with others for a long time. At that moment, Deng Yingchao walked in and said: 慙et us bring the candies from
In 1943, I stayed at school after graduation as a teacher and worked in the Research Center of Literature and Art Theory. During that period, I had been a vice steward in
Liu: When did you start to study literature?
Zhu: It seems that I couldn抰 leave the field of literature and art. I requested to be transferred to the Research Center of Literature in 1958 and the director at that time was my teacher, He Qifang. The 慙iterature Department of PRC?had just been set up with (He Jiakui) and 1 member (Wang Shuming), so I went to the Contemporary Literature Research Office afterwards. It was the time of the Great Leap Forward, during which the Chinese people were busy celebrating 10 eyars of the new China. Hence, I also suggested 憆elease the satellite?and proposed to edit a book called the 慙iterature of the Founding Ten Years?/I> with chief editor ?Mao Xing and editors ?Wang Liaoying (in charge of the novel), Zhuo Ru (in charge of poetry), I (in charge of the introduction) and others that I can抰 well remember. Afterwards, He Jiakui was transferred, so Tang Tao came to the
Liu: It is said that some in the field of literature research look down on the study of contemporary literature. What do you think?
Zhu: People who despise contemporary literature don抰 know much about it. Some people hold that we could study contemporary literature in case we can抰 read novels, which is very funny. If you want to study contemporary literature, you should not only know the development of literature, but also grasp modern and ancient literature, that is, necessary theories together with extensive literature knowledge. Otherwise, what shall we do with contemporary literature? Belinsky once said: 揕iterature review is moving aesthetics.?His words are very pertinent, so I appreciate them a lot. The studies of contemporary literature are dealing with new and developing objects without conclusions, so we should study and criticize by ourselves which is difficult to do with enthusiasm.
Some questions: 揌ow can you compose contemporary literature??The so-called 慶ontemporary?does not only refer to the present but also a specific period of space-time, that is, literature history after the establishment of the new
Liu: When did the Research Center of Literature focus on the history of contemporary literature?
Zhu: After the Great Cultural Revolution, Sha Ting and Chen Huangmei began to work in the Center. Chen Huangmei asked for instructions from the director ?Hu Qiaomu because he wanted the Center to edit the history of contemporary literature. He picked Wang Chunyuan, Zhang Jiong and me to find Hu Qioamu, Mr Hu gave us many important suggestions, in which 慏on抰 write the history of contemporary literature into a political history?impressed me most. He held that it was not mature to write the history of contemporary literature, so it shall be laid aside. However, Chen Huangmei first decided to study and summarize the phenomenon and specific questions during the development of contemporary literature and I was in charge of it. Originally, I took 慖deological Trends of Chinese Literature and Art in Recent Twenty Years?/I> of Li Helin for example and it turned out to be unfeasible, so I was determined to write the materials into historical theories.
The editors were Lu Lin, Cai Kui, Zhong Chengxiang, Fan Jiyan and I. We stipulated three principles before editing. Firstly, we should attach importance to firsthand materials during writing, so we looked over contemporary newspapers and magazines. Secondly, clarify unclear facts rather than seek or ask for instructions from leaders. At last, base it on the facts without bias. We received praise from the academic field after the publication of 慖deological Trends of Chinese Literature and Art in Recent Twenty Years?/I>. Wang Yao wrote to me: 揥rite bravely? Xia Yan and Huang Qiugeng said: 揟his book is very important.?It isn抰 clear whether they could tell we intended to oppose the Right and 慏ing-Cheng Group?because they are not significant. In the meantime, we thought highly of the 慡peech in Play Writing Symposium?/I> of Hu Yaobang and the Hongkong Journal also made some comments. Of course, people still held different opinions on the main arguments of this book, but most of them thought highly of the unified style of writing. Soon, some Chinese Departments in
Liu: What are the academic features of the 慛ew Trends of Contemporary Literature?/I> which you edited?
Zhu: This book mainly covers the development and changes of literature trends during the new period. I wrote the 慖ntroductions?and proposed my views on how to define 慙iterature of the New Period? Some believed that the 慙iterature of New Period?started from 慣eachers?/I> of Liu Xinwu published in 1978. But I thought it started from 慣he Forth Delegation to the Cultural Congress?in 1979. Due to the commencement of 慣he Forth Delegation to the Cultural Congress?and publication of Deng Xioping抯 慒elicitation?/I>, our literature has changed fundamentally from creation to theories. For example, the adjustment of literary slogans didn抰 mention 慒or Political Service?which was a change of direction rather than the modification of words.
Liu: I抳e learnt a lot from your words. What suggestions do you have for the studies of contemporary literature and construction of discipline? What are the problems with the study of contemporary literature at present?
Zhu: In my opinion, we are responsible for focusing on contemporary literature while dealing with research. Microscopically speaking, we shall study specific works and writers; macroscopically speaking, we shall pay attention to the studies of writing tendencies and ideological trends. Only if we combine them and summarize & promote theories, shall we write valuable masterpieces.
As for me, scholars who are studying contemporary literature at present are not very careful. He Qifang once said that we shall at least read the works 3 times before reviewing them. In my opinion, process is more important than time. I抦 afraid that it抯 not enough to read them 3 times. Generally speaking, we should read objectively to appreciate for the first time. Then, we should analyze the book to find out the highlights and questions the second time. Finally, we should analyze the book as a whole. We should generalize the passage after analysis and summarization so as to comment in conformity to the features of the work. Such generalizations should be aesthetical. Lu Xun set an example for us in this aspect, such as 慡eries of New Chinese Literature-Novels of Two Series?/I>. He summarized the significance of the ?st1:place w:st="on">
Liu: What are your experiences during your studies of contemporary literature ove the decades?
Zhu: As the title of one of my passages mentions: 慉s if it hasn抰 begun yet on the road of literature? You haven抰 written what you want to write and are not equipped with systematic and solid knowledge while researching. Such writers are only professional 憆eaders?in the field of literature. Due to long-term practices, I am very confident that whether the works conform to real life or not, I could propose my views. In addition, it is necessary to read more works and classical criticism works, like the works of Marx and Engels, Belinsky, Chemyshevsky, Dobrolyubov, Gorky, etc., among which Belinsky affects me the most.
Liu: You have mentioned that your life experiences are beneficial for the study of contemporary literature. However, some young scholars nowadays don抰 have such experiences as your generation because they go straight to Research Centers directly after graduation. So, how to solve this problem?
Zhu: Thank you for speaking openly. I think that I am not the only one to benefit from your words.
Translated by Feng Weijiang.
Editor: Wang Daohang