Mu Shiying (1912-1940): The Chronicler of Shanghai’s Jazz Age
Shanghai’s golden age, the Jazz Age, has elicited valuable comments from Stephan Tian and Ciriaco Offeddu that complement my review of Dr. Field’s conference, I truly appreciate it. The subject matter has obvious interest from the historical and the literary points of view, and in correspondence with these generous readers I would like to add this brief note.
Among the books mentioned, I should emphasize Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist. New Translations and an Appreciation by Andrew David Field, published by HKU Press this year, 2014. The slim volume contains a selection of Mu Shiying’s best short stories, including the cinematic Shanghai Fox-trot, written like blending vignettes, or The Man Who Was Treated as a Plaything, and Black Peony. A truly innovative writer, Mu Shiying experimented with his own version of the technique known as “stream-of-consciousness”, he lent a protagonist role to the female characters, and was ahead of the time in the way he suggested sexual engagement. For me he is a writer on a pair with Lu Xun and Lao She. And excuse me the digression, Lao She’s novel Rickshaw is one of the best books on China I have ever read.
Mu Shiying is the bard of Shanghai’s Jazz Age. His stories unfold the realities of everyday life, “A heaven built upon hell”, he wrote. Avoiding taking sides or patronising, his characters reflect the widest moral spectrum.
A dashing protagonist of the Shanghai night, who knew so well, Mu Shiying’s inevitable involvement with the politics of the time cost him his life. He was assassinated while riding in a rickshaw. Mystery involves his death.