Cultural Differences in the Theme of “Reincarnation”

  The reflection of the thought of “reincarnation” in literary works has multiple dimensions of philosophy, narratology and aesthetics, and it has been one of the important themes of Chinese and foreign literature since ancient times. In Latin America, transcending the boundaries of life and death through reincarnation is an important element of traditional Indian culture. In China, however, from the concept of reincarnation in the Zhuangzi period of “the end of life and the eternal existence of the soul”, to the concept of reincarnation in native Buddhism with the connotations of “reincarnation of the soul” and “karma and destiny”, “reincarnation” has become invisible. One of the interpretations of the existence form of life reflects the thinking of Chinese thinkers about destiny, and also provides rich theoretical resources for the creation of ancient and modern writers.
  Chinese writer Su Tong and Colombian writer García Márquez’s novels on the theme of “reincarnation” are both based on the absorption of traditional reincarnation and reflection on reality. focus.
The Theme of “Reincarnation” in Su Tong’s Novels

  From the thematic point of view, Su Tong’s novels are based on the meaningless reincarnation of individual fate and family history. This meaningless reincarnation, as an eternal predicament that cannot be escaped and cannot be changed, is reflected in the destructive tendency of individual life, in the family that constantly repeats the tragedy of the previous generation, and writes about those people who are out of touch with the times in the process of social development. of loneliness and confusion.
  Individual level: Destruction that is difficult to escape The characters in
  Su Tong ‘s novels are not numb and ignorant. They are aware of the development and changes of the external world and try to escape the fate of destruction. However, they have always been regarded as aliens, constantly attuned to each other under the discipline and judgment of the external world, and finally went to the end of destruction that was difficult to escape.
  These characters are not resigned to fate, they often have a strong vitality, but this vitality is eventually exhausted in reincarnation. For example, the five dragons in the novel “Mi” have a strong sense of resistance. In order to survive, he made every effort to resist the oppression of rice shop owners, local landlords, colonists and urban civilization, but in the end his life was destroyed by internal and external Exhausted from the pressure, he came with nothing, and returned to his hometown with nothing. Another example is in the short story “Escape”. Because Chen Sanmai was afraid of his wife, he fled to the fields, the city, and even the battlefield on his wedding night, but after many escapes, he finally died by his wife’s side. . “You are still chasing after you, and I can’t escape even if I flee to the horizon.” Just as “the wife chasing” is only a materialized symbol of fate, Chen Sanmai’s cycle of “escape – found by his wife – escape again” also symbolizes A person’s fateful reincarnation. As Moruo and Shi Chunsheng pointed out: “Escape is a hopeless struggle, because new possibilities always quickly become impossible, and new hopes always quickly turn into despair.”
  It can be seen that Su Tong’s novels often pass through cycles The form shows the struggle between people and their own destiny and the failed ending, showing a sense of powerlessness and confusion in the face of the mysterious destiny.
  Family Level: The Dilemma of Intergenerational Origins In
  Su Tong ‘s family, father and son, mother and daughter, and peers always show the same genetic flaws, and they fight with each other, making the whole family like stagnant water. These people who fight in the family are unable to break the cycle and enter the society, and gradually become out of tune with the society.
  In Chinese patrilineal society, the father-son relationship based on blood is the foundation of family inheritance. But in Su Tong’s novels, the relationship between father and son is often antagonistic. In “House of Poppies”, Liu Laoxia concealed Shen Cao’s life experience, making him live in doubt and rumors. This fear of losing his sense of belonging makes Shen Cao’s character more cowardly and alienated. His family’s desire for revival, his suicide and the destruction of the Liu family are the inevitable fate brought about by the sins of his father’s generation.
  From the perspective of women’s relationship, the women in Su Tong’s writings in the patriarchal society have suffered from oppression and transformation. Whether they are individuals or members of the family, there is a natural opposition to the mainstream social discourse. A group of female figures who have lost their voices in the big environment and can only fight internally, show us a meaningless internal conflict. In “Women’s Life”, three generations of women in the family have dual identities of mother and daughter at the same time. When they are daughters, they hate their mother’s way of life and try to pursue a new life on their own; but once they become mothers, they become An oppressor who affects his daughter’s life with the flaws he left behind. In the story, iconic events such as “1938”, “Japanese entering the city”, “steel refining” and “farm jumping in queue” all show the normal time trajectory of social development, but the conflicting relationship between mother and daughter in the family is caused by generations. , but breaks the linear development of time from within.
  It can be seen that the theme of “reincarnation” in Su Tong’s novels is mainly manifested in the fate of people and families, and more of a contradiction and estrangement between the external society and individual life.
The Theme of “Reincarnation” in Marquez’s Novels

  Marquez’s novels often use “reincarnation” as the theme, and also describe the loneliness and emptiness of individuals in the process of reincarnation, but the difference from Su Tong’s reincarnation is that Marquez shows more life and historical homogeneity. The fate of man is a meaningless cycle, and so is the whole of history. This isomorphic reincarnation of people and history seems to never see a way out, which intensifies the tragic sense of the novel; at the same time, the magical reincarnation and the plight of Latin American reality set off each other, triggering readers to further reflect on the future of the nation.
  Individual Level: Reincarnation in the Pursuit of Existential Meaning The theme of “reincarnation” in
  Marquez ‘s writings is expressed as “pursuit-failure” for the meaning of existence in life at the individual level. For example, in his masterpiece “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, the owner announced that each generation of the Endia family repeats a meaningless cycle. They try to find the meaning of life, but in the end they find that life is full of meaningless absurdity. Colonel Aureliano fought many wars for freedom, fairness and justice, only to find that he was not fighting for the ideal village of Macondo, but for his own pride. In his later years, he fell into nihilism, believing that everything in life is meaningless absurdity and nothingness, and will destroy the evidence of his own existence. He hides in the house and keeps making and destroying small goldfish, repeating the cycle of “creation-failure”. In fact, his life is also a kind of “search-failure” for the meaning of existence. Jose Arcadio’s process of learning to use magnets, magnifying glasses and alchemy is also a process of pursuit of meaning, and everything he does does not have a clear goal, nor does it achieve the expected result, it is a kind of purposeless. , meaningless behavior. The people of the Buendia family always repeat the search for meaning and failure, the repetition of creation and destruction, and fall into a meaningless state of nothingness in reincarnation.

Su Tong

  In “The Colonel Who No One Wrote to Him”, the colonel who experienced the “war to defend the Republic” also experienced the cycle of “seeking-failure”. For 15 years, he went to the ship terminal again and again, hoping to get back the pension promised by the government, but always came back empty-handed. What he was waiting for and looking forward to was not just money and status, but also the recognition of the value of his life as he fought bravely and saved the Republic. However, the meaning of his existence was obliterated by endless reincarnation.

  Nation Level: The Reincarnation of Pursuing National Progress
  In addition to expressing the confusion of individuals in “reincarnation”, when this theme rises to the level of a nation as a whole, it reflects Marquez’s deep understanding of the stagnant and reincarnating history of Latin American nationalities in the historical trend. focus on.
  Judging from the content of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, Marquez elevates the dilemma of personal reincarnation to the level of the entire nation through the shaping of group portraits. As the Russian critic Belinsky put it, true literature is that people “fully express in their beautiful creations and reproduce the people in which they live, are educated, live and breathe together. Spirit”. It is not just one person in the novel who experiences meaningless reincarnation, but the entire village of Macondo and the entire Latin American people it refers to.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude”

  The novel uses a non-linear narrative method to construct a cyclic and stagnant Macondo history, showing the living conditions of the entire nation living here. The arrival of the gypsies and Macondo’s resistance to the new civilization show Macondo’s reincarnation and stagnation: the gypsies representing the advanced civilization entered the closed and backward Macondo, which should have brought progress and development, but it did not. Thus, the Maconians would rather identify with their own old time system than adapt to a new one. The old Buendía tried to reach the world but failed, and the Macondoes after him, as he said, were forever trapped in this closed and stagnant place. For Macondo, once caught up in this cycle of complacent, numbness and forgetfulness, no amount of more than a hundred years is just the epitome of cookie-cutter.
  As Márquez said: “Macondo is not so much a place in the world as a certain state of mind.” The loneliness and confusion brought about by reincarnation are universal, and Márquez pitied him. The eyes full of humanistic spirit turn to those individuals who have been abandoned by the times and their entire nation.
  Cultural Differences between Marquez and Su Tong’s “Reincarnation” Themes
  Latin America and China have both experienced long and painful histories of colonization, and then both face the question of where their cultures should go. This similar historical background makes Su Tong and Marquez’s “reincarnation” theme novels have a connection. They all regard “reincarnation” as a kind of existential predicament of human beings. Human destiny is always in reincarnation, unable to play a subjective role to break the cycle, and gradually fall into a meaningless nothingness. Both writers showed a strong humanistic concern and a deep sense of urgency to these bewildered and painful people.


  Many of Marquez’s novels have the style of magic realism, and the connotation of magic realism itself is closely related to the changeable culture of Latin America. The choice of content and form helps Marquez to express the unique nationality of Latin America culture. In 1925, the Latin American writer Uslar Petrie combined European surrealism with Latin American culture and published the first magical realism novel in Latin America, Rain. Since then, Latin American writer Alejo Carpentier pointed out in “The Realm on Earth” that the magic in the theory of magical realism is based on Latin American reality, which is an emphasis on the unique national psychology and national reality of Latin America.
  Marquez’s magical realism novels also embody a strong sense of nationality and reality. In the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature award speech, Márquez’s work was evaluated as “using rich imagination, combining fantasy and reality, to outline a colorful fantasy world, reflecting the life and life of the Latin American continent. struggle”. Novels such as “The Colonel Who No One Writes to Him”, “Bad Hour” and “Mama Grande’s Funeral” all reflect Marquez’s concern for Colombian society and people’s livelihood. The theme of “reincarnation” in the novel is also produced in the real soil of Latin America. On the one hand, he actively reflects on social problems, and on the other hand, he has optimistic expectations for the future of the nation.
  This deep sense of reality and national consciousness has historical genes. Since 1942, the indigenous culture of South America has been invaded and transformed by European civilization; after Latin America achieved national independence and liberation, literature is still influenced by Spanish, Portuguese and other European literature. On the one hand, Márquez received a systematic and complete Western aesthetic education and was able to view local culture from a more literary conscious perspective; on the other hand, he also hoped to get rid of cultural recessive colonization, and to use the magic in the original thinking of the Latin American nation. And the collective unconscious of mythology as the material, to find a way of literary development in Latin America. Therefore, he took the initiative to assume the responsibility of being an intellectual, kept in mind the history of the third world countries lagging behind, and made positive self-examination on the problems of his own nation, so as to prevent the future of Latin America from being like the constant “reincarnation” of “Macondo Village”, The fate of stagnation and destruction is repeated.
  In contrast, Chinese writer Su Tong pays more attention to the inner world of individuals. As a writer who entered the literary world in the late 1980s, whether after the “Cultural Revolution”, in his view, there was no history, no reality, no culture, “only a lonely self-feeling” era and the influx of a large number of Western literary trends, or He grew up in a sickly and lonely environment, which made him consider himself a “lonely individual”, so his works pay special attention to the expression of inner self and spiritual world.
  In the 1980s, many Chinese writers were influenced by the western existentialist literary trend. Existentialist philosophy believes that there is a conflict between man’s self-conscious world and collective society, and this conflict makes man fall into existential dilemma. The characters in Su Tong’s works are often trapped in the oppression of objective reality and collective society. They are unaware of their own subjectivity. Under the influence of the global modernist trend of thought, Su Tong paid more attention to the internal causes of reincarnation, the mystery of fate and the powerlessness of human beings. If Marquez’s novels often describe the brutality and hypocrisy behind the social elite, reflect on the question of “what makes the nation fall into reincarnation”, and point out sharply that it is the upper class with power that makes the Latin American nation fall into stagnation and reincarnation. People suffer, so Su Tong pays more attention to the little people under the wheel of history, and looks for the internal cause of “reincarnation” from them while showing the confusion and loneliness in the inner world of these people who bear the tragic fate of “reincarnation”.

“The Colonel Who No One Writes To”

  The traditional thought of transcending life and death in Indian culture and the suffering history of Latin America together gave birth to Marquez’s view of reincarnation, while Chinese literature in the 1980s also showed a unique thought of reincarnation under the influence of Western modernism. The two have a certain correlation from the internal national consciousness and humanistic spirit to the external art form, which is embodied in the concern for people’s survival predicament. Both have their own different focuses. For Marquez, he turned literature more towards contemporary politics, and his characters and events were often drawn from the people and historical events of Latin America; for Su Tong, the theme of “reincarnation” was often expressed as social, collective, How do the powers such as patriarchy that override individual life obliterate the meaning of human existence, and make people fall into a situation where they cannot escape and cannot resist, thus conveying their concern and attention to individual life.