When Literature Is Art and Not Fitness -Recognizing Coetzee’s Novels in the Global Sensorium

2024.06.08 Saturday 15:00


BACKSTAGEBACKSTAGE, 3F, No. 57 South Maoming Road, Lyceum Theatre, Shanghai

Speakers: Lu Xinghua、Zhang Nian、Zhao Qianfan、Li Chunchang

In this installment of the “Vortex” project, we are delighted to welcome Li Chunchang, the renowned Chinese translator of J. M. Coetzee's literary works, and esteemed scholars Zhang Nian, Zhao Qianfan, and Lu Xinghua to share their perspectives on the fascinating world of Coetzee’s novels. Through engaging conversations and thought-provoking interactions, our guests will delve into Coetzee’s novels and explore the contemporary issues of sensibilities in literature and art. To spark further exploration and ignite a deeper appreciation for the nuances within Coetzee’s oeuvre, Lu Xinghua has thoughtfully crafted an introductory piece:

J. M. Coetzee’s novels present themselves as a challenging set of intellectual exercise equipment, demanding that we first examine our fitness goals before attempting to engage in the actual cognitive workout—some of these questions have long awaited proper reflection within the fields of Chinese contemporary literature and art.

His novels make an unprecedented demand of their Chinese readers in the context of globalism. Through his prose, we enter a global sensorium, a space where we can vicariously experience the “white-people nomadism” he so exquisitely constructs. In a sense, Coetzee is writing the most globalized novel, or creating the most globally-minded contemporary art. He is the first novelist of post-humanism. His works resemble litmus paper, testing the contemporary human conditions—racist tensions, feminism as domination, incompetence of men, the hopelessness of universities, the soliloquy of desire—these are the central themes upon which he repeatedly and rigorously ruminates.

Today, true contemporary literature and art must empower us to remain human in the face of post-humanism and resist the urge to devolve into mere instruments, operators, or users. J. M. Coetzee’s novels function as a rear engine, which spurs us to “admit our shame and advance forward,” mobilizing the innate literary perceptiveness latent within each of us.

The Macalline Center of Art (MACA) is a non-profit art institution located in the 798 Art District of Beijing and officially inaugurated its space on January 15, 2022. Occupying a two-story building with a total area of 900 square meters, MACA unites artists, curators, and other art and cultural practitioners from around the world. Through its diverse, ongoing, and collaborative approaches, the Center establishes a new site on the contemporary art scene. Guided by the “work of artists” and backed by interdisciplinary research, the Center aims to bring together a community passionate about art and devoted to the “contemporary” moment so as to respond proactively to our rapidly evolving times.