The author Da Xie was born Xie Wenge in June of 1957 in Qinglong, a county in China’s Hebei province. Da Xie once served as deputy editor of the “Shishen” monthly, and currently holds the position of vice-chairman of the Hebei Writers Association. Upon graduating from high school in 1973, he returned to his hometown for agricultural work, during which he founded a literary journal by the name of “Seedlings” along with some other young people from the area. “Seedlings” ceased publication after four issues. In 1979 Da Xie graduated from Tsinghua University’s hydraulic engineering department. After a stint working in the field of hydraulic technology, he changed tack and became a writer. Following its publication, Da Xie’s narrative, 16,000-line long-form poem Elegy was hailed as the “Genesis epic of the East”. His nativist and innovative collection of parables The Idiot’s Fables has been described as a groundbreaking work that “surpasses the absurd in the direction of nonsense”. His 2014 poem anthology A Personal History was awarded the “Lu Xun Literature Award”.
Da Xie’s novels, fables, and poems all have elements of surrealism within them. He has said: “It isn’t my intention to do away with the imaginary — both in terms of reality and language — rather I wish to deepen and strengthen it. One could even say that fiction is in itself a dimension of reality, the very thing of which the world’s multidimensionality and plentifulness are constituted.”Reality lies at the starting point of Da Xie’s fables, which, while narrated with distinct solemnity, go from the fantastical and profound to the absurd. They turn irrationality into a literary reality, using the means of language to uncover the things enshrouded by the appearance of reality. Both humour and wisdom exist within Da Xie’s fables, while illusion and reason join forces to subvert the reader’s imagination. His novel Long Song is an elegy devoted to the farming age, recounting somewhat dreamily the history of agrarian civilization through the dissolution of one family’s aspirations. Permeating through the harmony and tranquility of nature is the fatigue, helplessness, and resilience that come with being human. Thrusting legend and myth back into reality, the novel is thick with nativist customs and mysterious colour.
In the words of Zhan Furui: “One of contemporary China’s longest narrative poems, Elegy is not at all complicated in its storyline. Yet the life sequences and ideological content that revolve around — and extend from — its plot make it impossible for the reader not to marvel at the work’s complexity and profundity. The poet’s pursuit of life, dissection of ethnicity, and interrogation of the soul carry tremendous power — the sort of power that the storyline of a narrative poem alone cannot rival nor replace. This makes Elegy not only an epic poem about humanity and ethnicity, but also an epic poem about life and the soul.”
Speaking of the same work, Yang Siping said: “The surrealist Elegyuses the conflicts between people and nature, between people themselves, within people themselves, and between people and death — particularly conflicts emanating from war — as a means to elucidate the arduous and lonely psychological journey that the protagonist Gong Sun goes on from spontaneousness to conscientiousness. With love and a creative spirit at its center, the work makes efforts to establish Gong as a powerful mythical figure, in the process promoting such life philosophies as self-awareness and humanism. Elegy is a unique specimen among contemporary China’s epic poems, thanks to both its originality and nativism.”
Zhang Xuemeng said: “It is a solemn work of vast proportions. It is an epic of the East — its very own Genesis. The work’s birth will forever be an event in the history of Chinese poetry.”
Da Xie’s works possess a strong sense of uncertainty. Whether it is his poems, fables, novels, or even his sculptures in stone, his entire oeuvre blossoms with creativity. He will always surprise you.
Translator from Myanmar, Kaung Min is committed to translating Chinese literature and has made contributions in promoting Chinese literature among readers in Myanmar.
Korean translator and sinologist. Lecturer of Department of Chinese Language and Literature in Konkuk University, Kyung Hee University, and Ewha Womans University. Permanent Research Fellow of “Wen-er-Yuan (Literature is Long)”, a humanities research asso