Liu Zhenyun was born in Yanjin County, Xinxiang, Henan in May 1958. After enlisting in the military in 1973, he graduated from the Chinese Department of Peking University in 1982 and graduated from the Graduate School of Lu Xun College of Literature, Beijing Normal University in 1991. He has served as a reporter for the Farmers’ Daily and director of the Ministry of Culture, and is a member of the fifth, sixth and seventh sessions of the Chinese Writers Association. He began publishing works in 1982 and joined the Chinese Writers Association in 1990. His literary creations are first class and include the novels Hometown, Regime and Blood, Anecdotes in the Hometown, Material and Spirit in the Hometown (Four Volumes) and so on, the short story collection A Small Town: Tapu, Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers, Corridors of Power, Official, Liu Zhenyun Collection (Four volumes), the novellas News, Recruits, The Office, Remembering 1942 and so on. A Small Town: Tapu won the National Outstanding Short Story Award, Fiction Selection won the excellent short story award, Someone to Talk To won the eighth Mao Dun Literature Award. In 2018 he received the knighthood of the Order of French Arts and Culture. A number of his works have been adapted into film and television dramas, which have won a wide variety of awards and have had a wide range of influence at home and abroad.
Liu Zhenyun’s works, which describe the “working series” of urban society and the “officialdom series” of cadres’ lives, have aroused strong reactions in the literary world. He has established the civilian stance in his writing and focuses his attention on history, power, and people’s livelihoods. However, he still writes in a concise and straightforward manner, and has therefore became known as the “new realism” writer. Liu Zhenyun has a more obvious pursuit of “philosophical depth”. He continues to expose the ubiquitous “absurdity” and alienation that occur in everyday life.
Liu Zhenyun’s “officialdom” and “working” series of novels (A Small Town: Tapu, Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers, and The Office) focus their attention on the situations of people in the social structure. He has discovered the special contemporary social mechanism of The Office and the conventions produced by this mechanism. An ungraspable desire, the weakness of human nature, and the strict social power mechanism constitute a net that is difficult to escape from in the world of ordinary people created by Liu Zhenyun. The people living in this environment face powerful “environmental” pressures and have an unknowable sense of destiny when it comes to their fate; at the same time, they have experienced human distortions in the process of adapting to this living environment.
Hometown, Regime and Blood is a novel in which Liu Zhenyun pursues a new creative realm. This book begins with the strangulation and murder of a village head in the crypt of a village in the north of the early Republic of China era. The story moves on to two families in the village settling a generations-old grudge, after quarreling through changes in dynasties over many years. Through a small village, the author reflects the intricate social features of ancient China for half a century and exposes an ignorant and greedy side of human nature. Someone to Talk To, which won the Mao Dun Literary Award, is divided into two parts: Leaving Yanjin andReturning to Yanjin.
The first part Leaving Yanjin is about a rural village in Henan Province in the early 20th century. A lonely, helpless peasant loses his foster daughter, the only one able to speak, on the road in his search for his wife, who has run off with someone. To find her, he has to walk out of Yanjin. In the second part, Returning to Yanjin, is about the son of the peasant’s foster daughter, who was also trying to find his wife, who has run away with someone else, by travelling to Yanjin. With one going and one returning, the delay lasts one hundred years. The first and second parts are definitely not merely returns in the geographical sense. They not only symbolize the cycle of life, but also the return from heaven to the earthly world.