"The Ten Years of How I Cast Off The Influence of Wang Xiaobo"
(Anti's Blog) "The Ten Years of How I Cast Off The Influence of Wang Xiaobo (王小波)" April 11, 2007.
In the early morning of April 11, 1997, Wang Xiaobo passed away. I found out from the newspapers one day later. At the time, I was standing at the front desk of the hotel where I was working and I did not know what my own future might be. Ten years have passed by. I have left the so-called Wang Xiaobo-style road and I feel a lot helped me down the road to writing.
Before Wang Xiaobo, I liked Lu Xun and Li Ao madly. These two literary persons with rebellious streaks gave a lot of encouragement to me because I also have that rebellious streak. But Wang Xiaobo was totally special. As far as I was concerned, he was a god and he was my total future. I began to look for his essays early on. His essays seemed to have a "personal stamp." Even if he did not put his name to an essay, I can immediately determine if he wrote it. I remembered that before professor Wang Hui destroyed <Dushu> magazine, every essay published in <Dushu> by Wang Xiaobo made me exclaim with admiration and caused me (who was a science student) to remember "anti-heroes" such as "Sheng Hong."
But Wang Xiaobo's greatest value was to let me know that there is nothing so great about the arts. When a dark-horse science major such as Wang Xiaobo showed up, he can shut those literary celebrities up. Furthermore, if you analyze Wang Xiaobo's writing in detail, you will discover it was just "logic" + "intellectual discrimination" + "unrestrained writing." For any science major with even just a modicum of literary skills, it is easy to imitate this writing style without requiring any background in sociology and political science. So I began to learn it in order to seduce young female students, and I even published my first essay in <Life Week>'s "Roundtable of Life."
In 1998, I found the Internet. In the next two or three years, I was unable to break away from the model of Wang Xiaobo. I began to truly break off only after I became a professional news worker in 2001. Today, I can finally say that my writing has totally cast off his shadow.
I believe that the allure of Wang Xiaobo's writing had conquered not only my younger self. When I read the <Running dogs at Wang Xiaobo's door> discussion group and the books listed there, I read that the essays and stories by many of the 20-something-year-old university students today and I read the writings of the science major bloggers at bullog.cn, I can detect the presence of "Wang Xiaobo."
The type of temptation was clear. A science major who had been enmeshed in mathematics, physics and chemistry suddenly discovered that he can enter the domain of writing allmost without any training, sweep the field and achieve discernible results. This happy feeling of being able to reap without sowing, to advance and retreat as one pleases and to have the best of both worlds becomes the source of self-confidence. This is why I and the fans of Wang Xiaobo have come so far today. When Wang Xiaobo read Kafka, he discovered that it was possible to write this way and still be awesome. When we read Wang Xiaobo, we discovered that while we may never win the Nobel Prize in Physics, we still have a chance at the Nobel Prize in Literature. When Wang Xiaobo encountered indifference and criticisms from the people in the humanities, it only aroused our passion to defend him. Wang Xiaobo belonged to us and we will bring down the corrupt world of the old farts in the humanities! The future belongs to logic, the glory belongs to Russell and the world belongs to us science majors!
But ten years have passed. Like myself, many of the fans who were brought into the humanities by Wang Xiaobo have grown up. We begin to discover that while Wang Xiaobo was correct in what he said, it was obviously not enough. It is easy to bring down the corrupt world of the old farts in the establishment of the humanities, but it is very hard to build a new world of the humanities. Logic is not sufficiently powerful enough to explain this world; intelligent discrimination is not sufficiently tolerant enough to criticize the world; unrestrained writing is too simple to create a great work. Politics, society, law, economics, news, literature ... the Chinese people are different from the world in all of these domains which have their own sets of problems. As soon as you enter into one of these domains, you will suddenly discover that you won't dare to use the Wang Xiaobo style to handle it. So the self-confidence was just a illusion for the outsider. Although it can crush everything, it cannot be used to erect a new pillar.
From another angle, Wang Xiaobo's road helped me choose my profession. Back then, I attempted to understand Wang Xiaobo through his words only and I created my own misreading of Wang Xiaobo: I believed that as an intellectual in the humanities within the system, one has to worry about one's livelihood and cannot be an independent scholar. So the best approach was to separate one's career from one's profession. One should have a job that has nothing to do with ideology (such as commerce or IT) and then one dedicates all of one's remaining time to the career in the humanities that one truly loves. At the time, I thought that Wang Xiaobo was the model for this path. He taught computer science and he even wrote the software on which he did his writing, but he nevertheless wrote so wonderfully and independently. If my hero pursued this path, so too will I.
But he passed away in 1997. I harbored doubts about the this way of dividing "career and profession" in which one works in IT during the day and writes at night. Although, I could go on, I still felt torn apart inside -- when I did program codes, I was thinking about writing; when I was writing, I was downloading software at the same time. This type of struggle continued until I entered into the news business in 2001. For the first time, I synthesized my profession with my career. Today I can say that this is my road. A person has only limited time and energy. True success comes only from totally dedicating oneself in one career. Otherwise, one would not be too successful in IT and one cannot go far in writing. Instead, one will die from exhaustion just like Wang Xiaobo.
In the collection of letters in the ninth book of the recently published <Complete Works of Wang Xiaobo>, it was confirmed that my original adoration of Wang Xiaobo was based upon misreading. When I read the letters that Wang Xiaobo sent to Li Yinhe and his friends, I could practically see my own days of struggles. Even his analogies had been used repeatedly by me. He basically did not want to live this split life. He was struggling hard but he could not attain his ideal life due to various constraints. Thanks to our era, we have better conditions than Wang Xiaobo had back then and we can partially reach what Wang Xiaobo could not -- we can write freely without having to worry about tomorrow's breakfast.
Although I committed various misreadings, it was still true that Wang Xiaobo brought me into a brave new world. My hero died ten years ago. But whenever I pass by Renmin University, I pick up a copy of <Life Week> or I read some blogger bring up Russell and discuss logic, I think about him and those days of my struggle bearing him in my heart.