Xiao Hong (1911-1942), original name Zhang Naiying, lived through the first half of the twentieth century, leaving behind the image of a socially engaged writer, sensitive to the issues connected to the people of her troubled homeland, in the North East of China. After an initial enthusiastic reception of her most representative novel, The Field of Life and Death (1935) in the literary arena, she was later neglected by Chinese critics, and excluded from the Maoist literary canon, as her fictional creatures and her works did not fit the optimistic spirit and the class consciousness requested to the intellectuals of the time. She was then re-discovered only in the 1980s, when both in China and the West her works have been re-read with a feminist or cultural studies approach. In this paper I explore the personal and literary forms of escape underpinning her figure and literary production. Exile, escape, uncertainty are the key words which can adequately describe Xiao Hong’s life and writing, in which, as Yan Haiping (2006, 136) states, one can find the sense of a ‘mobile violence’, due to her choices both as a woman (who revolted against her traditionally bound clan) and as a writer, who adopted a quite innovative, fragmented style combining personal memories and a crude and yet poetic realism. The literary practice which mainly expresses her constant escape from stereotypes, ignorance and conventional fetters is the representation of a dislocated female body subject to any kind of violence and humiliation: Xiao Hong’s ‘placeless bodies’ (Yan Haiping 2006, 146) are tangible marks of subjugation but also of resilience against a gendered destiny, which let her construct her literary and personal identity on a popular standpoint.
Escape. Fiction. Mobility. Body.