[The Master of Chasing Light, Commemorating the 120th Anniversary of Shen Congwen's Birth]

This year marks the 120th anniversary of Shen Congwen's birth.

The basic understanding of him and his literary and cultural practice needs to be freed from isolated, stable, and relatively prescriptive concepts, and in a wider time and space, especially in the twentieth century. In China's ongoing dynamic relationship, the discussion begins.

In fact, Shen Congwen's self, literature, and the study of material cultural history practiced in the latter half of his life are also the process and result of an uninterrupted dialogue with the times.

Establish "self" by accumulating, expanding and combining all previous life experiences

  Shen Congwen's tombstone is a large stone with two words engraved on the front: "If you think about it, you can understand 'I'. If you think about it, you can know 'people'."

  So, what's up with the "I" that "thinks about me"?

  In China in the 20th century, there is a typical — typical because it is common — narrative about the self, that is, in the process of life experience, one suddenly encounters a certain turning point of shock, and thus “awakens”.

This "awakening" is the "awakening" of the "modern", because the forces causing the "awakening" come directly or indirectly from modern thought and modern theory.

Before the "awakening", he was confused, ignorant and chaotic, but after the "awakening", he suddenly realized and took on a new life.

There are many narrations of this type, and it has become a classic mode, not only a literary mode, but also a narrative mode of the broader modern culture and modern society.

  This is no surprise.

The shocking experience of the individual resonates with the "awakening" of ancient China. The modern transformation of society and the modern shaping of the individual are cause and effect and echo each other.

From the point of view of a single person, this modern "I" seems to be mainly produced and shaped by modern thought and modern theory, and its root is not life itself, but an external force.

  However, this fractured "awakening" did not happen to Shen Congwen.

His "I" is not the "new me" born after abandoning the "old me", but the accumulation, expansion and combination of all the previous life experiences, and to a certain extent, it can be established.

The self established in this way has roots and a history.

Looking at Congwen's Autobiography in this sense, we will find that this book is not only amusing and interesting, but also explicitly or implicitly contains the basic information for understanding Shen Congwen and all his works.

  Where did "I" come from?

How did "I" come to be?

The origin of life is vividly remembered.

The autobiography writes that when he left Xiangxi and entered Beijing at the age of 21, it stopped abruptly, and his self-image has been clearly established.

It can be said that it was through the writing of his autobiography that Shen Congwen re-confirmed the special factors that distinguish himself from others from his past experiences. Through the reorganization and narration of the complicated experiences, the formation and characteristics of this self have become more open-minded. Brighten up.

The reason why past experiences and journeys are meaningful, narrated and worth narrating is because it is through this process that the self can be established.

Here, we can see a basic difference. The fractured "awakened" "new self" is established by denying his own history, while Shen Congwen's self is established by affirming his own history.

  The reason to establish such a self is for a young writer to prepare for the future that can already be touched.

Since then, the works that best represent this self are ready to appear.

  For a longer life, the meaning of self-establishment is not only literary; this established self has to deal with all kinds of setbacks and challenges, to experience multiple confusions and difficult rebirths, and to live in At the end of life, completeness is achieved.

  It does not mean that Shen Congwen has established himself, and this self is fixed, because the real experience is increasing all the time, the way of life is prolonging every moment, and new questions are emerging one after another, which will also stimulate new questions and new discoveries about the self.

  Every time he reached a major pass, Shen Congwen would habitually explore his own origins, in order to help identify the current position and determine the future direction.

"Autobiography of Congwen" was written on the eve of the peak state of creation, as if it were a call to Shen Congwen's best works; "Learning from Reality" emphasized the personal pain in the era in the turbulent struggle, and his own literature He made predictions about the future as early as possible; when he was isolated and helpless, he wrote two more autobiographies, one called "Confessions of a Man" and the other "About Southwest Lacquerware and Others". , can have a deeper feeling and a closer understanding of Shen Congwen's work.

To see people and see the world with the history of real experience and accumulated feelings

  The re-discovery of "people" by new literature is closely intertwined with the cultural enlightenment of modern China.

If Shen Congwen's characters in western Hunan, peasants, soldiers, and sailors are put into a large cultural idea and literary narrative mode, most of them should be in a position of enlightenment.

But Shen Congwen did not follow this pattern.

The narrators of his works are not in a superior position compared with the characters in the works. On the contrary, the narrator is often "moved" and "educated" from them.

The narrator of Shen Congwen's works is often the same as the author, or the same person.

  When these people appeared in Shen Congwen's writings, they did not silently endure the criticism of "modernity" as representatives and symbols of ignorant and backward China, but presented them with a face that was not baptized by "modernity". A natural life and human nature.

Shen Congwen has "feelings" for these people. From them, he can experience the hard work of life and the solemnity of survival, as well as the loyalty to life and the commitment to fate.

  Shen Congwen is a person rooted in his real experience, and he sees people and the world with the history and accumulated feelings of real experience.

One of his words, after being recited by his student Wang Zengqi, has become a frequently quoted writing saying: "It must be posted on the characters to write." It seems to be about the writing method, but it actually involves a more important issue: how to "post it on the character." figure"?

Without personal feelings, intimacy and intimacy cannot be naturally born from the bottom of my heart, and it cannot be attached.

Fundamentally speaking, this is not a matter of method, but a matter of heart. Whether it can be attached to a character or not depends on whether there is a "sentient" heart that is close to everyday life and ordinary people in daily life.

  Shen Congwen's literature has passed so many years, why is there still vigorous vitality?

As far as the characters in his works are concerned, he did not put these characters in the frame, did not use this or that theoretical crayon to color them, did not think that he could characterize them, and did not change them. into a symbol.

They have vitality, the vitality that life itself radiates from the inside out.

Moreover, Shen Congwen is not conceited that he can "grasp" these characters just because he is very familiar with them. In his letter to Zhang Zhaohe, he said: he wrote them, "It must be well written. But I still feel that I am not strong enough, because originally these People are too big."

"Too big" is such an important feeling - he firmly believes that people in life are full of existence.

There are many writers who think that they can "grasp" the characters in his works, because he does not have the feeling that life is "too big". Hold up.

The work looks delicate and delicate, but it contains rich information of a big world

  Shen Congwen's literary world is not only the world of people, but also larger than the world of people.

To put it simply, Shen Congwen's literature contains heaven and earth, and people live between heaven and earth.

Most of the literature since modern times, only the world, people live between people, live in the sum of social relations.

  The concept of "heaven and earth" is related to nature, but not nature; it is related to human affairs, but it is higher than human affairs.

Reading Shen Congwen's literature, if you don't feel the "heaven and earth", you will not understand.

For example, in the widely disseminated work "Border Town", there are some very important things in it. Without this feeling, it is impossible to fully understand the author's intention.

There are sorrows in this world, but when we read this work, we can still strongly feel the bright, healthy power and the unending atmosphere.

"The great virtue of heaven and earth is called birth." The power of the transformation of heaven and earth will never end.

  Here, by the way, a few words about Shen Congwen's scene description.

The scenery in Shen Congwen's works is connected to nature, and the nature is connected to the heaven and the earth, layer by layer, so it has infinite vitality.

What we usually call a scene is an imaged thing, a fragment captured by our eyes or cameras; even if we can associate nature through the fragmented scene, that is the nature we have understood since modern times In objectification, we regard man as the subject and nature as the object of the subject.

Although we appreciate and admire the beauty of Shen Congwen's description of the scenery, it is not easy to understand the great beauty of heaven and earth connected with "the great beauty of heaven and earth without speaking" in his view of nature, and the great virtue of heaven and earth connected with "the great virtue of heaven and earth is life" , of course, it is even more difficult to understand the inhumaneness of heaven and earth connected with "the world is not benevolent, and all things are dogs."

Heaven, earth, humanity.

Humanity is only in the middle, we only recognize humanism, look at problems only in humanism, and look at nature only from humanism, and nature is divided and reduced to the object of human beings.

But in fact, the heaven and the earth are constantly moving, and the mountains and rivers are mighty. Shen Congwen's works look delicate and delicate, but they contain rich information of a big world.

  I also want to use this topic to say a word: human nature.

Many people talk about Shen Congwen's works and like to use this term.

Shen Congwen himself used this word.

What I want to remind is that Shen Congwen is talking about human nature in a world larger than human beings, which is different from what we usually say about human nature, and we usually talk about human nature in the human world.

The humanity in his feelings contains information that is connected with the movement of the heaven and the earth inhabited by human beings.

(Author: Zhang Xinying, professor of Chinese Department of Fudan University)