Long Time No See (Jiu Bie Chong Feng) by Fan Yusu

Author:  Fan Yusu

The cover to Long Time No See (Jiu Bie Chong Feng) by Fan YusuBeijing. Beijing October Literature & Art Publishing House. 2023. 320 pages.

Fan Yusu’s literary journey transcends a mere tale of personal transformation; it represents a challenge to the prevailing norms of society. From her humble beginnings as a farmer in Hubei Province to her role as a childcare worker in Beijing, Fan Yusu’s unwavering pursuit of her literary dream, in defiance of economic and societal constraints, stands as a beacon of inspiration. Her deep-seated passion for literature, fostered through years of immersing herself in secondhand books, laid an unexpected yet solid foundation for her literary acclaim.

In 2017 her nonfiction piece “I Am Fan Yusu” captured the public’s imagination, amassing over one hundred thousand hits in less than twenty-four hours and marking a significant milestone in her literary journey (to read an excerpt, see WLT, Spring 2021). In 2023 she debuted her novel Long Time No See, an intimate exploration of her personal life and family history set against the rural backdrop of Xiangyang, Hubei. The novel vividly portrays the resilience and struggles of a family facing challenging circumstances, echoing the universal themes of endurance and hope.

The widespread appeal of Fan Yusu’s work is attributable to two pivotal factors. Her ability to weave engrossing narratives as an ordinary laborer shatters the entrenched stereotype that literary talent is reserved for certain social echelons. Her works, with their authentic and poignant narration of everyday life and its hardships, offer a distinctive perspective of the world as seen through the eyes of common people. Her straightforward yet profound writing style deeply resonates with readers, forging a genuine connection with the simplicities and complexities of life.

Second, her experience as a nanny in affluent households provides a raw, unfiltered view into the lives of the wealthy, characterized by both luxury and absurdity. Her frank depiction of the affluent class serves as a direct critique of society’s class division based on wealth, reflecting the moral and value distortions caused by the excessive pursuit of money and status. Her writings stand as a clarion call to a society fixated on materialism, challenging the superficial metrics by which worth and respect are often measured.

Beyond her personal narrative, Fan Yusu’s works are a testament to the rich literary potential that lies within the lower echelons of society, often overlooked in a world where cultural and intellectual pursuits are seen as the domain of the elite. Her writings give voice to a segment of society that yearns for knowledge and cultural expression but is frequently stifled by societal stratification and the lack of accessible platforms. Long Time No See is not just a novel; it is a cultural statement and a vehicle of empowerment for the underprivileged, offering a glimpse into the aspirations and capabilities of those who, despite their talents and awakened consciousness, find themselves at the lower rungs of the social ladder.

Fan Yusu’s literary achievements not only showcase her personal talent but also reflect her acute insights into societal realities and inner exploration. Her works serve as a profound reflection on social stratification and life’s complexities, illustrating how a writer from a humble background can significantly impact a nation’s cultural and social consciousness. Her writings challenge modern society’s elitism and materialism, prompting a reevaluation of our understanding of wealth, status, and human value, and highlighting the cultural and intellectual contributions of those often marginalized in society. (Editorial note: The Spring 2021 issue of WLT included a special section devoted to Chinese migrant workers’ literature, guest-edited by Ping Zhu.)

Zhang Wenru
China University of Petroleum, Beijing

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