Students’ Quests in Liu Sola’s Post/Modernist Narrative: You Have No Other Choice and Chaos and All That

Serena Fusco


In this essay, I offer close readings of Ni bie wu xuanze (You Have No Other Choice, 1985) and Hundun jia li-ger-leng (Chaos and All That, 1991), two short novels by Chinese author, musician, and composer Liu Sola. A graduate in composition from the Central Conservatory of Music, Liu made a resounding literary debut in 1985 with You Have No Other Choice, which was rapidly classified as the first authentically modernist Chinese work of narrative fiction. In 1988, she moved to London, where she wrote Chaos and All That. While keeping in mind the tension between, on the one hand, Liu’s pivotal position in contemporary Chinese cultural discourse and, on the other hand, the diasporic location she ended up occupying, I attempt to contextualize both novels under examination with respect to the Chinese historical, cultural, and literary context of the 1980s and the very early 1990s, when an effervescent debate on modernity, and especially on the potentialities and pitfalls of literary modernism, gradually showed the signs of a shift towards post/modernism. Within this context, I also engage with a more strictly literary and tropological frame of reference, exploring Liu’s creative usage of a recurring, rich trope in Chinese literature: the “student”, especially as study abroad student – a trope that changes, and is the bearer of different connotations, according to how the component of gender is deployed.

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