Fan Jianjun, male. Born in March 1970, in Wangqiao Village, Shangshan Township, Xiushui County, Jiujiang City, Jiangxi province. Member of the China Writers Association. In his youth he worked the land with his grandfather and sold firewood and charcoal. As an adult he worked in a gold mine, and after graduating from teacher’s college he worked as a teacher, reporter, magazine editor, and also did temporary work in Shenzhen. He began writing in 2002. In 2011 he took part in an advanced course at the Lu Xun Literary Institute, and in 2013 his name appeared on the list of the most popular Chinese novels compiled by the Richmond Public Library in British Columbia, Canada. His representative works include the novels Zhu Jin Ji and Peach Blossom Itch (Tao Hua Yang), as well as the short story collections Life at the Water Gate (Shui Men Shi Xiang), Flowers for Sale (You Hua Chu Shou), Empty House (Kong Fang Zi), and Chronicles of a Good Samaritan (Xing Shan Ji).
Although Fan Jianjun’s stories can be enormously complex, the uniquely individual spirit of his narration is very distinct. Much of his writing depicts the schism between the chaos of urban survival and the reliability of the countryside. In the connecting areas between body and mind, between individuals, between city and countryside, between past and present, we discover a broader space for human nature. This is an intersection of yearning and fear, and it is also the critical point, the difference between finding a foothold and losing one. It is a stubborn and cohesive examination of the enigmatic thing that is human nature. Fan Jianjun’s prose contains thrilling elements of exploration, even sometimes utilizing a process of elimination, but in his complete process of molding a narrative, in which the layers gradually emerge, the reader is utterly moved by the absurd, tense, and painfully evocative sense of the setting behind the story. Fan Jianjun’s books have also earned the praise of award-winning writer Su Tong.
Fan Jianjun’s novel Zhu Jin Ji uses a modern narrative perspective to tell a fantastical tale about gold and wealth. The book blends customs and traditions with the shocking truth of human nature, revealing the essence of gold, its history, and its development. Adopting a critical attitude, it depicts the contorted relationship between the process of the transformation from gold to wealth, and its relationship to reality. In the process of doing so, it conveys the painful course of events that occurs when someone takes control his or her own fate, presenting the current mentality of the individuals of modern society in a diverse and multi-layered manner.
Life at the Water Gate, Fan Jianjun’s serialized collection of short stories, creates “carnivores,” “herbivores,” and peripheral grassroots characters of all walks of life and places them in a single village. The work depicts their state of existence while also presenting the unique ingenuity of their rural way of life. On the surface, Fan Jianjun is simply depicting the way of the world, but running through these characters’ veins is the ethical culture of rural Chinese society. Once this ethical culture of ethics has crystallized into survival wisdom, it then conversely impacts China’s culture of ethics.
Unlike the works discussed above, the short story collection Empty Home utilizes a female perspective. Empty Home focuses on humble souls in the midst of struggling. Through its acutely sensitive yet elegant details, it captures these souls’ every quake and tremble, presenting their joys and sorrows, as well as the desolation and dismal gloom inside their hearts. This book takes human nature’s dark and bright parts alike, and it concentrates these things into a rumination on, and exploration of, the spiritual world of the modern era.
In 2017, Fan Jianjun’s short story “Sperm Whale in the White Shirt” (Chuan Bai Chen Shan De Mo Xiang Jing) received the 2017 Wang Zengqi Chinese Short Story prize, which was presented by the China Writers Association and Selected Fiction, alongside fellow recipient Mo Yan. This work deftly approaches the gap between simplicity and complexity. Taking “concealment” as a central theme, it uses the subtle portrayal of childhood experiences and its key tone of pure unadulterated sadness that runs throughout the entire novel to activate the book’s richer and broader space for interpretation, further boosting the work’s outstanding quality with a layer of symbolism. In fact, this also embodies Fan Jianjun’s exploratory spirit and his mastery of his craft.