Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong
In 2010, Cai Xiang’s Revolution and Its Narratives [Geming/Xushu] was pub-
lished in China.1 It immediately garnered positive reviews (as well as a few po-
litically motivated attacks) and became one of the most talked about schol-
arly books of the year. Roundtables were organized to discuss its challenges to
convential scholarship and workshops convened to explore its many strands
of inquiry. The translators decided soon after that this was precisely the kind
of book that is still quite rare in English- language scholarship on modern so-
cialist Chinese literature. Its major topic—the relationship among Chinese
narratives of revolution, modernity, and socialism in the Maoist period—
generally has been dismissed in English- language studies of modern Chinese
literature. In the few exceptions, the discussions often reduce the cultural to the
political, neglecting the complex literary and aesthetic aspects of the work in
favor of assumed transparently political- ideological readings, which amounts
to the same thing as a dismissal. Cai Xiang’s book argues otherwise and thus
presents a potential map for future research. It is, in short, an entirely new
1. The literal translation of the title is Revolution/ Narratives; we have been persuaded by
outside readers and Duke University Press to slightly modify this title for the English edition.
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