Serve the People (Korean film, Chinese book review) - Culture series 2 : understanding Asia
Disclaimer: This is only one of the many perspectives, and it does not give the entire picture of what's required to understand China. Many Chinese people serve the country where they are. Thus misunderstanding is not allowed, considering this novel represents the entire of China. One must remember that many good aspects of China exist.
A few days ago, my spouse told me she watched a Korean movie while waiting for the in-house she-wolf, which was beyond her understanding. The title of the film was "Serve the People." As an in-house historian, I explained the film's historical background to her as I read the book "Serve the People" by Yan Lianke a few months ago (what a coincidence).
Please see the trailer and the review of an IMDB user and Korean film reporter. Yan Lianke's 2005 novel "Serve the People" is the film's origin. However, unlike to novel, the film's background is an unknown communist country in the 1970s, which seems intentional. Therefore, it could be interpreted as either North Korea or the People's Republic of China. As I read the novel, I could explain the film's ambiguity to my spouse.
Due to the sex scenes and sensitive political content, the story attracted controversy in China when it was featured in the literary magazine Huacheng in 2005. The Chinese government ordered the publisher to recall all 40,000 copies of the magazine, which in turn created huge demand for the novel. The novel was banned by the Chinese government. It has been translated into French, Danish, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Italian, Czech and English. -Wikipedia
A pen for the People by Mary-Anne Toy and Beijing
Yan Lianke wrote the original novel in 2005. Julia Lovell translated in English.
Background & Context
In order to understand a particular text, one needs to understand the background and context first. Otherwise, we only grasp the superficial story, which is typically camouflaged. A sensitive person feels weird when encountering a text or film without such background. They are sensing "I am missing something."
Baidu Baike is the Chinese version of Wikipedia; however, it's under censorship. Further, however, it's the best toolkit for finding information about China.
Excerpt from Baidu Baike (Google translation)
Please refer to below Google translated origin of "Serve the People." (excerpt)
"Serving the people" is an important principle of the Chinese Communist Party, which originated from a famous speech given by Chairman Mao Zedong on September 8, 1944. At that time, at the memorial meeting for the soldier Zhang Side, Chairman Mao Zedong for the first time profoundly expounded the idea of serving the people theoretically. After finishing this speech, the title of "Serving the People" was published in Yan'an " Liberation Daily " and " Xinhua Daily " in the Kuomintang-ruled area. In 1953, it was included in the third volume of "Selected Works of Mao Zedong."
In October 1944, Chairman Mao Zedong pointed out when meeting journalists:
" Half- heartedness is not acceptable, and half-heartedness is not acceptable. We must serve the people wholeheartedly." Since then, "serving the people" has been expressed as "serving the people wholeheartedly".
In April 1945, in his opening speech entitled " The Destiny of Two Chinas " at the Seventh National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chairman Mao Zedong said: "We should be modest, cautious, guard against arrogance and impatience, and serve the Chinese people wholeheartedly. In order to unite the people of the whole country to defeat the Japanese aggressors, and in the future, to unite the people of the whole country to build a new democratic country." In the Seventh Political Report "On Coalition Government," he emphasized: "Serving the people wholeheartedly, never for a moment. Disengagement from the masses; everything from the interests of the people, not from the interests of individuals or small groups; the consistency of being accountable to the people and to the party's leading organs; these are our starting points." Also at the Seventh Party Congress, The phrase "Chinese Communists must have the spirit of serving the Chinese people wholeheartedly" was written into the party constitution.
And it was later written into the Constitution and became the legal obligation of the state organs of the People's Republic of China and their staff. Article 18 of the "Constitution" stipulates:
"All staff of state organs must be loyal to the people's democratic system, obey the Constitution and laws, and strive to serve the people." Motto and action slogans are used.
When someone says loyal or obeying, we need to think about speak up and speak out culture.
In the first sentence of the novel - where we can read the writer's message
The very first sentence of most novels contains the writer's intention. In this book, we can read it. In the English version, the first and the second sentence. Chinese and Korean versions of the first and the third sentence.
The novel is the only place for a great many of life's truths. Because it is only in fiction that certain facts can be held up to the right.
삶의 수많은 진실들은 소설이라는 방식으로 표현할 필요가 있다. 어떤 진실한 삶의 모습은 허구라는 교량을 통해서만 비로소 확실한 경지에 도달할 수 있기 때문이다.
The writer's explicit message
In the Korean-translated version, the writer kindly explains his intention (no message in the English version). Please see the below part of such a message (I tweak it a little for translation).
그 시대는 혁명이라는 이름으로 세워진 영혼의 감옥이었지만 이런 감옥이 단지 중국인들에게만 있었던 것은 아닙니다.(중략) 이러한 영혼의 감옥은 필연적으로 견고한 담장을 갖추게 됩니다. 이 보이지 않는 감옥의 담장안이 바로 인간정신과 문화의 또다른 아우슈비츠가 되는 것이지요.
It was a prison of the soul built in the name of the revolution at that time, but it was not only the Chinese who had this prison. The wall of this invisible prison becomes another Auschwitz of the human spirit and culture.
소설에 담겨있는 모든 망설임, 타협, 배반도 자신이 처한 사회 환경에 대한 우리 인간들의 어쩔 수 없는 흐느낌이자 반성일 것입니다.
All the hesitation, compromise, and betrayal contained in the novel must also be the sobbing and reflection of us humans for the social environment we are in.
소설은 인간정신의 교향곡이라 할 수 있습니다.(중략) 문학은 영원히 우리의 삶 속에 햇빛이자 달빛이고 가뭄에 내리는 단비이자 장마 끝에 비치는 햇빛입니다. (중략) 문학은 영원한 삶이자 노래입니다. 저는 생명, 사랑, 존엄을 위해 노래합니다.
A novel is a symphony of the human spirit. (omitted) Literature is the sunlight and moonlight in our lives forever, the rain in drought, and the sunlight at the end of the rainy season. (omitted) Literature is eternal life and song. I sing for life, love, and dignity.
이 소설은 인류의 운명과 역사에 관심이 있는 독자에게만 들려주는 이야기입니다. 이 소설은 인간의 존엄에 대해 영원한 존중과 사랑의 마음을 갖고 있는 사람들에게 보내는 한 통의 편지입니다.
This novel is only for readers interested in the fate and history of humankind. This novel is a letter to those with eternal respect and love for human dignity.
이것은 존경하는 한국의 독자 여러분께 전하고 싶은 폐부에서 쏟아져 나오는 마음의 소리입니다.
This is the voice of the heart pouring out of the lungs that I would like to convey to my esteemed Korean readers.
2007년 8월 12일 베이징에서 옌롄커
Yan Lianke in Beijing on August 12, 2007
Whether it's "sexual desire" or "desire for power," it's an aspiration. People tend to consider sexual one is lower than power one. However, both are the same as they only left vanity and demolition in the end.
When the train of hunger runs, everyone takes on the train without thinking as it's fun. While reading the novel, I saw Yan Lianke's message is similar to Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt.
"Think before act!"