Xue Yiwei enjoys increasing popularity among readers and he hopes his fiction works help readers think about life from a new perspective. Photos by Qin Ying / For China Daily
Some fiction works we read and forget. Others, like Xue Yiwei's, make us think past the last page. Zhu Yuan digs deeper.
Fiction writer Xue Yiwei says he pursued immortality by writing - and constantly rewriting - his books. The 49-year-old is obsessed with the notion that fiction is a special way of deepening his and readers' insights into the essence of life. Xue also believes the Chinese language is rich and limitless, and able to present fiction writers' perceptions.
The peculiar and dramatic fate of his first novel, Desertion, over the past two decades proves this, he believes.
The book is hailed for demonstrating the use of Chinese to present thought-provoking stories - Xue's way of seeking immortality.
Desertion is about an amateur philosopher and was first published in 1989. Xue estimates no more than 15 people read it in the first eight years.
Then, suddenly, glowing reviews by critics and academics led to the 1999 publication of second edition, which was a hit. A revised edition published last May was also well received.
Xue believes the renewed attention to his work owes largely to an intellectual shift in how people view themselves and the world.
Many professors and government employees quit their jobs to join the growing private sector in the 1990s. The buzzword from the era is xiahai - "jumping into the sea of business".
Xue believes Desertion didn't do well during this period because people were too focused on making money to read.
In Xue's novel, hero Tu Lin goes against the tide of the time. Although Tu chooses to quit his job as a government employee and even deserts his family, he does not xiahai. Instead, he lives as a hermit because he can't adapt to the world's chaos and feels ostracized.