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Ouyang Yu, The Eastern Slope Chronicle

07 Jun

This time last year Ouyang Yu came to The Mine to speak to Year 11, so I spent the best part of a day with him. I had been warned that he could be “difficult”, but such was not my experience. This Google search of my English and ESL site takes you to all I wrote before and after that day about that visit.

Ouyang is a controversial figure within Australian literature, sometimes characterised as ‘the angry Chinese poet.’ His work captures the frustrations (personal, social, professional and sexual) of the migrant experience and hits out at the indifference and hostility with which Australia has greeted recent waves of Asian immigration. He writes with insight about the dilemmas of transnational artists and intellectuals caught between different literary, cultural and linguistic traditions. His raw, uncompromising style (according to one critic, the ‘deliberate unloveliness’ of his language) challenges literary as well as social establishments at the same time as it engages in courageous acts of introspection and self-criticism. Ouyang typifies the new generation of post-colonial writers and intellectuals who can write with detachment about the forces of globalisation and their impact on East-West relations and at the same time acknowledge their complex and often painful impact on their own life and work.


That is on Ouyang’s site.

I pointed out when I mentioned The Eastern Slope Chronicle on June 1 (in the additional comment) that the novel was rejected 29 times before Brandl & Schlesinger finally published it. I can see why publishers would be nonplussed with this very postmodern work where the style quite deliberately, I believe, retains quite a bit of “uncorrected” Chinglish; that this fluctuates convinces me it is deliberate.

The novel is eminently quotable. The first example may justify my referring to him as a kind of Chinese Mister Rabbit, as, like The Rabbit, he says what he sees no matter whose PC sensibilities might be offended.

Contrary to popular Chinese perception that Australians are stupid, I would think they are pretty smart for average Chinese, with their hands because they are good at fixing things, mowing the lawn, gardening, and renovating their houses, better than the average Chinese in these things…

Australians like to make promises but do not seem to like to carry them out. The end result is often exasperating…

And:

His supervisor, Professor Sean Dredge, was a historian who knew little about the Chinese and what they thought. The only reason he accepted Wu was because he thought Wu would be useful to him as he was researching for a book he was going to write on the recent Chinese experience in Australia, particularly after the June 4th, 1989… In a climate where all things Asian were good, the Chinese were quite a commodity to market. As a historian, and one with a business mind, Sean was quick to seize the opportunity…

And:

The comments I got were not favourable. They went something like: this was not appropriate for an essay. More respect should be due. But ever since I hated the idea of a reader that I am supposed to respect. Each time when I write I want to say this to my readers: fuck you! and get away! I can’t be bothered with you making judgments as if you were a god or something. If I do that I reduce myself to the same level as the owner of a McDonald shop whose only concern is get more customers, thus bringing in more income.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned; but I strongly recommend this bracing experience to you. It is indeed a very clever book.

“My home is where my heart find peace,” Su Dongpo [= “Eastern Slope Su”] once said… To me this doesn’t seem to apply for wherever I go my heart just doesn’t seem to find peace, whether it is Australia or in China or anywhere else in the world. Once there was a home for it and it was called China. Now that I returned home, curiously, it was no longer there.



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One response to “Ouyang Yu, The Eastern Slope Chronicle

  1. Marcel Proust by email ;-)

    June 7, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    You might have guessed I am counter-suggestible, so I won’t be so easily drawn to post a comment. In fact, quite the contrary!

    I would like to borrow the book from you, though.

     
 
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