Chapter Eat to remember. Gastronomical reconfigurations of hunger and imprisonment in contemporary Chinese literature
De Marchi, Serena
During the famine that befell China following the disaster of the Great Leap Forward, hunger was a major affliction for the individuals undergoing reform in the labor camps. Food – in terms of procurement, consumption, or just discursive recollection – was a central issue in the prisoners’ lives and, as a consequence, descriptions of meals and eating practices are a recurring presence in modern Chinese literary texts that revolve around carceral experiences. This contribution investigates three literary works that reconstruct personal experiences of imprisonment by way of eating: Wang Ruowang’s Hunger Trilogy (1980), Zhang Xianliang’s Mimosa (1984), and Yang Xianhui’s Chronicles of Jiabiangou (2003). In these texts, food becomes a privileged perspective through which look at how personal and collective memories are re-appropriated and re-elaborated, as well as to analyze how narratives of the past are consumed and produced.