Li Guowen, male. Born in August 1930 in Shanghai; his family is originally from Yancheng in Jiangsu province. Graduated from the Nanjing Theatre Academy in 1949 with a major in playwriting theory. Former member of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (deployed to aid North Korea in 1950). In 1986, he joined the Chinese Writers Association and became the chief editor of Selected Fiction. His writing was first published in 1957. His works include the novel Number Five Garden Street, the short story collections The First Bitter Glass of Wine, History of a Dangerous Building, and A Pointless Story. His novel Spring in Winter won the first Mao Dun Literature Prize, and his works Lunar Eclipse and History of a Dangerous Building (part one) received China’s third and fourth national award for Outstanding Short Story, respectively.
Li Guowen has been considered an evergreen feature among literary circles. In the decades that have followed the publication of his novel Re-election, he has consistently published new works, each of which has been widely praised. He writes with an ordinary heart, writing freely and from the heart, never straying outside his own rules. Attaching particular importance to the writer’s linguistic style, he believes that language is the textual symbol most capable of reflecting the feelings of a certain time. He pursues the use of rich, vibrant national language, and elegant cultural tastes.
Li Guowen’s literary debut Re-Election was published in People’s Literature in July 1957. While ostensibly a book opposing bureaucracy, on a deeper level it revealed another side of the Chinese people— one that was weak, restrained, and lacked an awareness of self-protection and resistance. Hao Kuishan, the novel’s protagonist, takes the form of a hero. The book displays Hao Kuishan’s noble image as a person who works for the people through three major events. When he is stripped of his position as labor union president (as a result of saying the wrong words during an important meeting), he does not bicker about his individual successes and failures. In fact, his enthusiasm for serving the workers is not at all dampened. When he is chosen as the new union leader, thanks to the massive support of the workers, he dies at the election site as a result of long-term overwork. If one analyzes the character from the perspectives of “human nature” and “an awakening to self-awareness,” one sees that Hao Kuishan lacks self-awareness. He is completely selfless, both physically and mentally, something that clearly does not align with typical human nature.
Using the themes of “land,” “people,” and “mother,” Spring in Winter follows Yu Erlong, party committee secretary and head of a large-scale military depot, who returns to a guerrilla base that he has not visited in thirty years to track down the person who murdered his wife, Lu Hua. The experiences, thoughts, and memories that occur during the three days of his return also serve to summarize of nearly forty years of social transformation. Through an attitude of reflection, the author looks back on the past and ponders the price of revolution, in addition to considering the current post-revolution reality. He injects commentary and emotional expression into the protagonist’s soul, organically revealing his own beliefs through the protagonist’s own thoughts. This novel is notable for its unique structure and its use of chronological disorder. It intersperses history with reality, its intricate plot increasing its artistic allure. Possessing a deeply moving artistic infectiousness and deep intellectual content, Spring in Winter reveals that “spring is in the people’s hearts.”
In recent years, Li Guowen has published essay collections such as The Abnormal Death of a Chinese Literati and The Survival Method of a Chinese Literati. When it comes to “historical prose,” he has developed a style of his own and has been highly influential.