Yu Hua’s signature penchant for description of brutal violence in his writings was inspired by Richard Wagner’s music and a letter of Vincent van Gogh he came across in the 1980s that re-defined his concept of harmony, the renowned Chinese novelist told more than 200 Lingnan students and staff members at a sharing session on 25 November.
“The magnitude of Wagner’s music overthrew my old concept of harmony that emphasised peace, elegance, symmetry and tranquility. After reading van Gogh’s letter that talked about a newer and stronger harmony, I started to search for it by pushing the limits,” Yu said.
He told the audience at Lingnan that 1986, his first published fiction, was inspired by many mentally broken people who were probably persecuted during the Cultural Revolution and were still visible in the Chinese suburbs in the early 1980s. Impact of the turmoil continued to haunt the Chinese people even though a decade had passed. Since the publication of his best known novel To Live, Yu came to realise that he should forget what has been written and explore the most suitable form of writing for new stories. By the mid-1990s, his experiment of writing a novel in dialogues sought inspiration from the narrative and libretto structure of Yueju, the native form of Chinese opera in Zhejiang province. His latest work The Seventh Day continues to draw on real-life experience in China, but he chose to reflect the reality with a preposterous plot.
Born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1960, Yu is an acclaimed modern Chinese novelist at home and abroad. In 2002, he became the first Chinese writer to win the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of the University College Dublin, Ireland. His best known novel To Live (1992) was adapted for film by renowned director Zhang Yimou in 1994. Another novel Brothers (2005) was also shortlisted for the Man Asia Literary Prize in 2008. His works have been translated into more than 10 foreign languages such as English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.