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Young author gives a voice to China's rebel generation

(2008-06-18 15:15:13)


分类: 英文
  • News
  • World news
  • China
  • Young author gives a voice to China's rebel generation

    A bestseller turns the spotlight on moody middle-class teenagers, reports Jason Burke in Beijing

    Chinese author Tang Chao

    Chinese author Tang Chao

    He is sullen, brooding, 15 years old and now among China's bestselling authors. Tang Chao's paperback, Give Me Back The Dream, a dark tale of unrequited teenage love, conflict with parents and adolescent suicide, reached the top of the bestseller lists last week, a success confirming the coming of age of what has been dubbed the country's 'Generation Z'.

    'I just tell the story of people I know,' Tang said in a telephone interview from his home in the central Chinese city of Chengdu. 'We are the post-Nineties generation and society doesn't understand us.'

    Such sentiments might be the staple of sulky adolescents in the West, but they are new in China. If the country's Generation X grew up in the aftermath of the devastating Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, and Generation Y enjoyed the extraordinary economic growth of the Eighties and Nineties, 'Generation Z' has a different teen spirit.

    Books such as Give Me Back The Dream and the 'adolescent anguish' series of Rao Xuenan sell millions of copies. So do the novels of Guo Jingming, 24 - whose melancholy young heroes seek an answer to their anguish by sitting alone on top of high buildings for hours pondering their plight or by plunging into a vortex of violence, alcohol and karaoke. Alternative music with a darker, more nihilistic style than the saccharine pop that has dominated the Chinese market for a decade is also beginning to make inroads. More than anything, the real novelty is simply the idea that teenagers can be grumpy, hostile and apathetic.

    'Our parents think we are like them, but we are not,' said Ye Jiadi, 18, smoking a cigarette outside the D-22 club in the university area of Beijing early yesterday. 'We just want to hang out. We don't want to live like our fathers lived. We have our own way.'

    In a country where hundreds of millions still live below the poverty line, the 'Z' phenomenon remains restricted to the comfortable and educated middle class of urban centres, but nevertheless many still see it as significant.

    'The writers say what their readers - high-school students for the most part - want to say themselves,' said Zheng Tan, professor of literature at Fudan University, Shanghai. 'These are people who have grown up in a China that is becoming steadily wealthier, and as material conditions have improved they have become more concerned with private emotion.'

    The work of the new writers is also less politically controversial. 'Their focus is very personal and they deal less with social, political or economic themes. So the government leaves them alone - and that suits everybody, publishers, authors and consumers alike,' Zheng said.

    For Deng Jun, a child psychologist in Beijing, books such as Give Me Back the Dream portray the reality for millions of young people. 'Official government statistics speak of between 500 and 700 teenagers reported with depression in China, but these figures are very conservative,' she said. 'The hotline I run received more than 2,500 calls in the last year from young people showing depressive tendencies.'

    A further problem is China's 30-year-old policy limiting parents to one child. 'This has created a generation of over-indulged children who have little ability to confront disappointment or hardship,' Deng said. 'There is also an enormous pressure on only children to succeed. They feel depressed, anguished and can easily become suicidal. They often have problems making friends.'

    In Tang's book, one character kills himself by jumping from the top of his apartment block after a row with his ambitious parents, who have banned him from pursuing a love affair with a schoolmate for fear it could damage his exam results. Young fans of the author said he was describing something many of them felt.

    'Our generation lack confidence, and as we are often only children we are terrified of being alone or losing friends,' said Wei Peng Fei, 17, a schoolgirl queuing to buy Tang's book at a central Beijing bookshop.

    A series of studies in recent years have revealed that Chinese teenagers are smoking and drinking more and having sex at a younger age. Another concern is internet addiction. The government has set up a series of centres which use a mixture of military-style bootcamp discipline and sympathy to treat teenagers who had become dependent on the internet, particularly on video games.

    Yet Rao Xuenan, 35, whose Young Anguish series has sold millions, says that the 'post-1990s generation' also have 'a positive side' that is often forgotten. The recent earthquake in which 70,000 died has brought out the best in many teenagers in the wave of solidarity and charity activism that swept China, he said. 'I thought they were just anguished and depressed but they are much stronger and less selfish than we imagined.'

这个闷闷不乐的15岁少年如今是中国畅销书作家之一。唐朝(Tang Chao)的《把梦还我》讲的是关于少年爱情未得回报、与家长冲突、青少年自杀的阴郁故事,上周登上畅销书榜首,这个成功确认该国Z一代的来临。


  在西方闷闷不乐的青少年当中,这种情绪可能很普通,但在中国却是新鲜事。如果说该国的X一代成长于文革之后,Y一代则享受了八九十年代非凡的经济增长,那么Z一代则是有着不同的阴郁精神(teen spirit)。



  复旦大学文学教授郑潭(音译,Zheng Tan)表示,作者们说出读者(主要是高中生)想说的事情,那些成长于日渐富裕的中国的人们变得更加关注个人的情感。


  北京的儿童心理学家邓君(音译,Deng Jun)认为,《把梦还我》等书描述了数百万青少年的现实。“我经营的热线去年接到超过2500个来自有抑郁倾向的年轻人的电话。”




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