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The voice of a generation

By Yang Guang  (China Daily)

10:27, June 26, 2012

Beijing-based writer Xu Zechen reveals the lives of the underprivileged struggling in Beijing's Zhongguancun, known as the country's "Silicon Valley". (China Daily/Wang Jing)

Post-1970 writers have long been considered a shadow generation, falling behind both the literary quality of their predecessors born in the 1950s and 1960s, and the market influence of their post-1980 successors. Praised by literary magazine Master as "the glory of the post-1970 writers", Xu Zechen says his embarrassingly sandwiched cloud has a silver lining. "Being the antagonists of the literary scene renders us more patience to toil in silence," the 34-year-old says. His silent toiling has given voice to the equally silent social classes struggling on the boundaries of the country's urban landscape.

The main characters of his novel, Running Through Zhongguancun, which propelled him into a recognized writer, are pirate DVD peddlers and fake certificate makers in Zhongguancun.

Zhongguancun, the electronics area known as the country's "Silicon Valley", has become a literary landmark due to his "wandering in Beijing" story series.

Running Through Zhongguancun, his 2006 novella about the love story of pirate DVD peddler Dun Huang, will soon be available in English.

Despite the pedigree of having obtained a master's degree from Peking University and working as an editor with China's longest running literary magazine People's Literature, Xu says his rural background connects himself with the underprivileged in his stories.

Growing up in the countryside of Donghai, Jiangsu province, he spent his childhood pasturing cattle, planting rice and running around in the fields.

He began reading seriously only after attending middle school, where he rented books from bookstores and borrowed from classmates.

Xu recalls reading over and over again Qian Zhongshu's Fortress Besieged and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

His first ambition was to become a lawyer but his dream was shattered because he didn't perform well in the college entrance examination. When he ended up studying Chinese in a small town college, he felt "tragically frustrated".

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