Realism and Chinese literature

From The Spell of Realism in Chinese Literature by Chen Xiwo:

I am indeed fully aware that a completely objective recognition of the facts is difficult. Any description of facts cannot avoid being colored by subjectivity. But the so-called “typical” is determined according to a pre-determined object. A typical character, for example, is “a representative of a particular class and inclination” and “a representative of the particular thinking of his age.” Why does he represent this? Because the most important social relationships are gathered in his person. There is a basis for this belief: the world in which we live is an organic whole, and it has a center. There is reason to doubt this belief, for it inevitably puts constraints onto thinking. Besides, literature itself has the perogative to fictionalize. Whatever criticism was leveled at Yu Hua’s Brothers, practically all of it revolved around “reality.” But in fact, the problem with Brothers wasn’t that it wasn’t real, but that it tried too much to be real and in doing so became a model, an imitation of reality. Strive as he might, the writer simply couldn’t take flight. The author ought to have boldy cast off from reality and let literature drift upward.

Chen Xiwo is working with Engels’ definition of realism: “Realism, to my mind, implies, besides truth of detail, the truthful reproduction of typical characters under typical circumstances.”

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