The Ig80s dawned in China with the promise ofa new history that
would leave ultraleftism behind. But the nation's farewell to Mao's
socialist past was accompanied by a contradiction: the cult of Mao
disappeared only to return a decade later as a flourishing culture in-
dustry that cashed in on remembering Mao. The Mao Zedong Fever
of the early Igg0S was puzzling to many. But it was not an acci-
dent. Memories of Mao's era and obsessions with Maoism lingered
throughout the postrevolutionary decade ofthe Ig80s. Nowhere else
were those memories registered more deeply than in narrative fic-
tion. The "wounded literature" of the early Ig80s served as a para-
mount example ofwriters' efforts to recount and recant the heresy of
the Cultural Revolution. The exorcism of Mao Zedong and the radi-
calism he once stood for raged on. Writers of "reform literature"
and the "literature ofreeducated youths" -which includes the much
acclaimed "root-searching" literature of the mid-1g80s - continued
Chinese writers' historical mission of reevaluating bygone politi-
cal movements in the manner ofenlightenment philosophers. Never
mind if their revisit of that moment grew increasingly ambivalent:
was the Cultural Revolution an unredeemable trauma or a utopia
aborted? Writing as an anxiety-ridden political act, and specifically,
writing as a weighty act of resistance to Maoism, was a sublime
agenda that was hardly questioned, let alone challenged, until the
debut ofthe Avant-Garde School
around Ig87.
Indeed, as David Der-Wei Wang so aptly summarizes, Chinese lit-
erature from Iglg to Ig8g is "burdened with writers' heavy concern
for the Chinese nation."
The avant-garde, sometimes referred to as
David Der-Wei Wang, "Chinese Fiction for the Nineties," in Runnin.g Wild: New Chi-
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