Language and Literature
This paper explores the politics of leftwing cosmopolitanism regarding the creative and intellectual exchanges between Chinese, Japanese, and European (French) intellectuals and writers. It looks into the political novel as a clustered platform where socialist revolution, utopian and anarchist thoughts coalesced and clashed in avant-gardist realist or modernist fictional representations of revolutionary China during the 1920s and 30s. It studies André Malraux’s The Conquerors (Les conquérants, 1928) of the 1925 Canton uprising in China and Hong Kong, and Man’s Fate (La Condition Humaine, 1933) of the failed communist insurrection in Shanghai in 1927. The latter is read alongside Chinese leftist writer Mao Dun’s Midnight (Ziye, 1933) and Japanese Riichi Yokomitsu’s Shanghai (Shanhai, 1932)—they constituted the novelistic trinity on Shanghai, China’s foremost cosmopolitan city and the center of world revolution in the 1920s and 30s. Inspired by contemporary European avant-gardism in novel writing, the Chinese and Japanese authors depict Chinese citizens’ and Japanese expatriates’ testimonies in semi-colonial Shanghai as a warning for China and Asia under the reign of global capitalism and Western colonialism. I ponder how the three (Chinese, Japanese, French) writers of transnational visions can be a true border crosser as much as they are bound by their own nationness, revolutionary orientations, and ideological prejudices. Whereas China was represented as a world stage of the revolution in these political novels, I challenge the alleged worldliness of the literary representations in celebratory terms without questioning China’s relationship to global geopolitical powers in the unevenly developing world.