Male writer Ma Yuan, born in 1953, is a native of Jinzhou of Liaoning province. In 1970, after graduating from senior high school, he went to the countryside as an educated youth for rehabilitation. It was in 1978 when he pursued studies at Liaoning University within the Department of Chinese. Upon his graduation from the university, he began to work in Tibet. In 1989, however, he was transferred back to Liaoning, and pursued work as a professional writer at the Literary Academy in Shenyang, capital city of Liaoning province. Later on in 2000 he went to work at Tongji University as a Professor of creative writing.
Ma Yuan began to publish his works in 1982. “The Goddess of the Lahsa River”, one of his short stories released in 1984, attracted the attention from the literary world in China. In 1985 he published The Seduction of the Kailash Range, which instantly brought him to fame. His novels include The Above and the Below Are Both Even, Monsters and Demons, and The Entanglement to name a few. His novelettes include The Seduction of the Kailash Range, Fiction, The Wandering Spirit, and The Death of the Old. His collections of short stories include The Goddess of the Lhasa River, Three Ways of Folding Paper Harrier, Three Kinds of Time for Living in Lhasa, The Ancient Ode to the Himalaya, and A Wall Fully Painted With Weird Designs. During his teaching tenure at Tongji University he published his lecture notes on literature called The Fiction Knife and The Reading Master.
I am a guy of the Han ethnicity and my name is Ma Yuan. My hobbies include writing stories and I am also very fond of imagining wildly, creative thinking, and woolgathering. My stories can be defined as quite hair-raising and I always tell stories in Chinese. I have jotted down hundreds of thousands of words. Those stories are all about Tibet and are all written in Chinese.
I once wrote about the female deity the Goddess of the Lhasa River. I also wrote about several men and women, some brown goshawks, vultures, and paper harriers. I also wrote about bears, wolves, leopards, and other ferocious and monstrous animals of the same kind as well as smaller creatures. In addition, I also wrote about the life and death of my fellow people, their ways of living, as well as their way of dying.
This time around, however, in order to hammer out a new story I inconspicuously spent some time in the Maqu Village. I was there for full seven days, and did my best to blend in. This story is about patients suffering from leprosy, and the village is a ward area, or more commonly said a sort of leprosy village, designated by the state.
The first person I encountered when coming to the village was an old and freakish dumb. We climbed the mountains together. He had a gun with him and he forced me to hand in all the food I had brought with me. Worried whether or not I was able to obtain a permit from the doctor to enter the village, I sneaked into this forbidden place instead. The ward provided no fences in any form. Hence there was nothing preventing patients from going out, or to prevent others from coming in. The lack of proper enclosure of the area allowed me the chance to slip in without a problem.
I was walking around the village and did not see any persons in the house yards. I then continued to walk elsewhere throughout the village and still did not see a single soul. I made up my mind not to walk into any yard or any room casually.
The first obvious sign that there were people there came from the second floor of the last building in the village when I went to the back of the village. This was the only tall building in the village. I walked up the steps, pushed open the door, and saw three women in the house. One was a woman with leprosy whose nose had rotten away and whose entire face had supposedly been gravely burned. The burns had left many scars. She could, however, speak in Chinese with me. The woman was carrying a baby boy and was breast-feeding him. She was the only person who could speak Chinese in the village. She walked me around the village and we saw a group of men who were playing basketball. Among them was a short man who was prominently agile. I gathered that he was around 40 years old and that he was the sole person who knew the tricks of running the ball and making the shot in a proper manner. The woman told me that the baby in her arms was this man’s.
At this point the ball, all of a sudden, rolled over to my feet. I gathered strength and made a shot. The ball flew exactly through the very center of the basket. At long last I caught the attention of the villagers. All the people were now cheering me on and I had now taken the focus of all attention. Also at this point I noticed two not so friendly-looking guys staring at me. One was that short man who was playing basketball and the other was a tall but considerably aged man. The latter’s back was terribly hunched, and his beardless face was dry and wrinkled similar to that of an aged walnut. He was the only person among the villagers whose face wore no dull or dim-witted expression and whose skin looked dark, which was an indication of no obvious signs of leprosy.
Once I fell ill and ran a high fever. The leper woman carrying that baby boy in her arms took care of me and on a warm night I made love with her. Although I was not very sober-minded, yet I do not have any remorse for this act.
I came to the old dumb’s house, which was located at the southwestern corner of the village. I took advantage of the time when he was out and entered his home. This was all in the hopes that I could discover something unusual in the house about the old guy who possessed a gun and who both pretended to be a dumb and spoke Chinese. I ransacked the house and found a peaked cap used by the old armies with a blue sky and bright sun insignia embedded at its front center. When the old dumb came back and found me in his house, he did feel surprised or answered my question. He was not even on guard against me, just putting on a stupid expression on his face. I deduced that he was either a mentally retarded man, a great actor, or a monstrous and sinister murderer.
After leaving the old dumb’s house, I came to where the sacred tree grew. A pleasant striking sound came upon my ears. From under the tree several women were slowly turning the prayer wheel anti-clockwise around the base of the tree. I used my camera to record this scene. In the crevice between two trees I saw the short basketballer. It was he who was causing the striking sound. He was now striking at a stone with his hammer and making a sculpture. He waved to me and asked me to take a picture of him. Moreover, he expressed his intention in giving me a stone sculpture in relief.
Before finishing this sad story I had to say that the following ending was a fabrication of sorts. I had a stone sculpture in relief and I wanted to leave out the detailed story about it here. I had been to many places within the Tibetan territory and gotten inspired by what I had seen and experienced. My wife, a journalist, once interviewed a female doctor who had worked in a leprosy hospital. She recounted to me what she had heard in some hospitals and I happened to have read a book written by a French person called Kisses to Patients with Leprosy. I took an interest to the hair-raising title of this book and later on I by chance came across a book written by a Briton which was also about a leprosy village and whose title was A Case Who Automatically Cured His Virus.
Before long I went down to the south of Tibet, planning to take a car to get back to Lhasa. The driver was a friend of mine and he said that he had driven across every part of Tibet. For a time he did not like talking and I asked him why. He replied that ten miles further from where he had just passed there was a leprosy village. He then added that he had once given a lift to a patient who was sturdily fat and carrying a baby in her arms. As a writer, however, I was fortunate enough to having come across all these accidents and incidents. In addition, the following ending was cooked up only to clean myself up.
The following day when I was climbing the mountain, I bumped into the old dumb. He spoke once more and repeated what he had told me four days before. I was for a while fearful of the resurfacing of the scene that had occurred four days before. However, this time around I was obviously unnecessarily worried, as he had never risen to his feet from the ground. Additionally, I went down the mountain first.
I went off in quest of the short man, only to find that his wife and son were at home. Again I went to the sacred tree and spotted him there. He solemnly passed on the already finished stone figure into my hands and before it he knelt down to pay his homage.
I had originally intended to leave the village on the following morning. However, on that evening when I heard the gun reports, I went to the house of the old dumb, only to find that it was the mother dog that he shot dead. Thereafter he finally committed suicide by shooting himself dead.
I decided to set off on that night. When I was too exhausted to continue I spent the night in the house of a Tibetan railway maintenance worker. Later on at night a mudslide occurred and half of the northern part of the mountain tumbled down. That was the last time I saw the village.
Fiction has been taken as Ma Yuan’s classic, for it challenges the conventional way of writing novels and opens up a fresh avenue to avant-garde novel writing. |It is a purely personalized writing. This novelette narrates an outlandish and mysterious story through fictionalized traps. This refers to a person who alone sneaks into an isolated and segregated village, where people with leprosy are confined. There he encounters a woman with leprosy that he with time falls in love with. He also comes across a freakish dumb whose identity remains a mystery, as well as a short Lhoba man. All these outlandish experiences similar to that of a dream, give readers at once a sense of mystery and thrill.
Ma Yuan himself said, “Fiction, one of my stories, is both realistic and illusory. It is completely at night that I wrote up the novelette. It is strongly tinged with the color of nightmare. It is very much like a dream, and the whole atmosphere in it is dream-like.” On one hand, the novelette constructs a story, but on the other it deconstructs it. The narrator now and then detaches himself from the story by emphasizing that this story is both a fiction and a fabrication, whereby blurring the boundary between fact and fiction. The novelette keeps on altering its narrative perspectives, dismantling and juxtaposing the chunks of story, and adds non-linear logic of time and space. All of this leads to the forming a unique narrative style, which some critics call “narrative loop or trap”.
In short Ma Yuan’s narrative style subverts the reliance of realism upon story, and opens up the prelude to the revolution of narration by avant-garde novels.