This final essay reads both didactically and tritely. For example: “Readers are moved by the life reflected in a story and the fate of the chief characters. This means I oppose fabrication, deception and flowery language. What I hate most are those glory-seeking writers who deceive the public with their lies,” he notes.
Ba Jin doesn’t bother to mention who these “glory-seeking” writers are, but he’s pretty much just spelling out his list of biases and what he “hates.” Ok, so what? “Deceive the public with their lies?” Fiction IS lies. That doesn’t mean there can’t be some universal “truths” within said lies, but so what? Truth or lie is irrelevant to whether the art works or not. “Readers are moved by the life reflected in a story and the fate of the chief characters.” I would agree with this, yet his next two sentences come out of nowhere. What this final essay reminded me of is Leo Tolstoy’s crap essay called “What is Art” where Tolstoy states the whole great art must equal great politics shtick. Yawn.
This Ba Jin collection is well worth the read for any fan of the short story, or anyone interested in Chinese literature. Yet ignore his screed in the last essay — his book and my time would have benefited had it been omitted. Thankfully, it is short lived, both in pages and in mind.