The radio, Ding Ling, the Internet and Shen Congwen

Because radio provides a safe border crossing to the outside world in pandemic times, we often listen to it. That goes well until 9:30 in the morning with radio 1 news (Jurgen van den Berg, etc.), but it becomes a risk after that. For some time now we have regularly switched to BBC radio 4. Plenty of variety. If something is raised there that is irritating, the presentation will at least have quality and its length be short.

Ding Ling

I recently heard 15 minutes “Chinese Characters.” This is a BBC podcast in which historian Rana Mitter explores the history of the country by looking at 20 remarkable lives. The episode was about Ding Ling. Reason to search further.

Internet

So the BBC gave enough reason to consult the internet. I quote Wikipedia:

[…] Ding Ling was influenced by progressive teachers at the People’s Girls School, and by her association with modern writers such as Shen Congwen and the left-wing poet Hu Yepin, whom she married in 1925. She began writing stories around this time, most famously Miss Sophia’s Diary, published in 1927, in which a young woman describes her unhappiness with her life and confused romantic and sexual feelings. Miss Sophia’s Diary highlights Ding Ling’s close association and belief in the New Woman movement which was occurring in China during the 1920’s. In 1931, Hu Yepin was executed in Shanghai by the Kuomintang government for his association with the Communists. In March 1932 she joined the Chinese Communist Party, and almost all of her fiction after this time was in support of its goals […]

This quote prompted a search for Miss Sophia’s Diary. I found a hard-to-read digital version through the presumably Russian caverns on the internet (b-ok?, z-lib?) which uninhibitedly open up so much science and literature in a manner of which it is questionable whether it is consistent with the applicable copyright protection rules. From that version I could infer that it would be worthwhile to order a book with an anthology of her texts, with an extensive introduction entitled I Myself Am a Woman. I’m waiting.

Shen Congwen

Ding Ling was influenced by Shen Congwen, who interests me for completely different reasons. Again from Wikipedia:

Regional culture and identity plays a much bigger role in his writing than that of other major early modern Chinese writers. He was known for combining the vernacular style with classical Chinese writing techniques. Shen is the most important of the “native soil” writers in modern Chinese literature. Shen Congwen published many excellent compositions in his life, the most famous of which is the novella Border Town. This story is about the old ferryman and his granddaughter Cuicui’s love story. […] He was slated to win the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature, but died before he could be awarded the prize.

It has always amazed me why I so often prefer what my contemporaries tend to consider an incomprehensible and backward disorder, although I am certainly not alone with this preference (example). I do know that little is written about that today. Maybe Shen Congwen has an answer.