A Private LifeBook - 2004
At the age of twenty-six, Ni Niuniu has come to accept pain and loss. She has suffered the death of her mother and a close friend and neighbor, Mrs. Ho. She has long been estranged from her tyrannical father, while her boyfriend--a brilliant and handsome poet named Yin Nan--was forced to flee the country. She has survived a disturbing affair with a former teacher, a mental breakdown that left her in a mental institution for two years, and a stray bullet that tore through the flesh of her left leg. Now living in complete seclusion, Niuniu shuns a world that seems incapable of accepting her and instead spends her days wandering in vivid, dreamlike reveries where her fractured recollections and wild fantasies merge with her inescapable feelings of melancholy and loneliness. Yet this eccentric young woman--caught between the disappearing traditions of the past and a modernizing Beijing, a flood of memories and an unknowable future, her chosen solitude and her irrepressible longing--discovers strength and independence through writing, which transforms her flight from the hypocrisy of urban life into a journey of self-realization and rebirth.
First published in 1996 to widespread critical acclaim, Chen Ran's controversial debut novel is a lyrical meditation on memory, sexuality, femininity, and the often arbitrary distinctions between madness and sanity, alienation and belonging, nature and society. As Chen leads the reader deep into the psyche of Ni Niuniu--into her innermost secrets and sexual desires--the borders separating narrator and protagonist, writer and subject dissolve, exposing the shared aspects of human existence that transcend geographical and cultural differences.
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A person's ability to act in accord with her own conscience depends upon the degree to which she can go beyond the limits imposed by the society in which she lives, to become a citizen of the world. The most important quality she must possess in this is the courage to say no, the courage to refuse to obey the dictates of the powerful, to refuse to submit to the dictates of public opinion.
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