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Liu Wenjin – Voice and Salvation: Listening to Ba Jin’s Random Thoughts (《随想录》）
April 28 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Speaker: Liu Wenjin, Professor, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, East China Normal University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2021-2022
David Wang, Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University
Jie Li, John L. Loeb Associate Professor Of The Humanities, Harvard University
Ba Jin (1904-2005), who called himself “the son of the May 4th movement,” is a giant of 20th-century Chinese literature whose writing inspired a generation of youth to join the communist movement. Written in his later years, Random Thoughts is one of the earliest and most influential memoirs of China’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. His memoir testified to the double sides of the remarkable “confession” promoted by the party-state during this God-making movement. This talk examines the meaning of voice in this text from the perspective of the phenomenon of voice in Chinese literary culture in the 20th century.
By considering Random Thoughts as testimonial literature, this talk presents Ba Jin’s strategy and ethics of witnessing the silent moral “grey zone” under totalitarianism by recovering his own voice. It explores what “telling the truth” – the keywords in Random Thoughts – means and the relationship between this truth-telling and his personal beliefs and his salvation in hard times that “has no god.”