Xue Yiwei 薛憶溈
This novel has been published in installments in the journal New Land Literature, Taiwan, since 2011, Issue 2. The whole book will be published in Taiwan in the spring of 2012.
Reviewed by Yao Dadui (Ph.D. candidate, Literature, Zhongshan University; HYI Visiting Fellow 2011-12)
Norman Bethune’s Children was described as a masterpiece that “would go down into history” by Shouhuo (收獲) and Huacheng (花城), two top Chinese literary magazines. After careful consideration in January and February, nonetheless, neither of them dared publish it because of its innovative treatment of the last four decades of Chinese history and its surprising representation of Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon who became the most influential western figure in China during the disastrous Cultural Revolution.
However, the novel was promptly accepted in February by Xindi (新地), a Taiwanese literary quarterly, just two days after its final rejection on mainland China. It has been published in three installments as a “special item” since March, and has received an enthusiastic response from Chinese literary specialists all around the world. Leading critics consider it “the best Chinese novel of this decade.”
A Synopsis of Norman Bethune’s Children
Two ordinary Chinese families (especially the three children), haunted by Dr. Bethune, a Canadian spectre, live their interwoven yet antagonistic lives from the year of the normalization of Sino-American relations (1972) to the year of the Olympics in Beijing (2008). Their connection is fateful, yet their destinies are doomed. Full of irony, tragedy, madness, betrayal, hatred as well as love, friendship and trust, the development of their relationship is not only deeply interwoven with internal man-made and natural calamities (like the Cultural Revolution, the earthquake in Tangshan, the economic reform and the Tiananmen massacre…..) but also echoes what happens outside China (the Cold War, Sino-Soviet conflict, Nixon’s visit to China……).
The Author of Norman Bethune’s Children
Labeled by the Chinese media as “the most charismatic stylist in contemporary Chinese literature”, Xue Yiwei was born in Chenzhou, Hunan and grew up in Changsha. He received his BSc in Computer Science from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, his MA in English Literature from Université de Montréal, and his PhD in Linguistics from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. In 2009-2010, he was appointed visiting fellow in the City University of Hong Kong. His acclaimed books include a novel, a collection of stories and a critical edition of his war stories. He won a literary prize from the Lianhebao newspaper in Taiwan. He currently lives in Montréal, Canada.