A Portrait of a Modern Chinese Youth in Diaspora: Re-reading Yu Da-fu’s Novels
Yu Da-fu is a writer who marked the beginning of modern Chinese literature. Working as a member of Creation Society (Chuangzao she, 創造社), Yu became a pioneer of new style in Chinese literature in the sense that he initiated the new style of lyrical novels in Chinese literature and portrayed the awakening and frustrations of the modern self. As many young Chinese intellectuals did at the time, he developed the awakening of the modern self in the empire of Japan. Yu became a literary figure during his study in Japan, where he experienced diaspora by living right in the belly of the empire. He borrowed a form of modern Japanese literature, the “I-Novel (shishōsetsu, 私小說),” for his fiction, in a sense, mirroring in his novels his own life. Yu borrowed the form of I-Novel, a confessional genre, and created a representation of a modern Chinese youth in diaspora. The stories of the “self” he created present both the awakening of the modern self and the frustration of diaspora. In this sense, Yu’s novels are important texts that show a representation of a modern Chinese youth in diaspora—how they have desired the empire and how they have failed.