“My big statement”: art, political experience and the quest for identity in Alex Kuo's Chinese Opera

Fulvia Sarnelli


This essay considers the political experience of Chinese and American intellectuals in Chinese Opera (1998), the short novel by the American author from Chinese descent Alex Kuo. His protagonist, traveling from the United States to China during the months immediately preceding the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, undertakes a journey to search for his family history, and the reasons which pushed his father into exile. Intellectual and musician, located between two realities of political activism which exerted their authority to either define or dismantle, according to prospectives, the exact concepts of belonging, the protagonist chooses and endorses a commitment on a transnational level, but starting from a reinforced as well as claimed consciousness of his own individuality. Literature and art are the focal points that are able to convey a tension between the individual and the collective: the tension is detectable in a different modulation in both Chinese and American socio-political systems. The novel, therefore, presents a politicized subject, but one who is impossible to insert in any pre-constituted discursive formations. In turn, the political discourse in the literary text, meant as Khatibi's double critique, weaves together the intellectual's public and private dimension with ethnic, national and transnational significations.


Subjectivity; Chinese American; Double critique; Exile; History

Full Text:

PDF (Italiano)


Bergère, Marie-Claire, La République populaire de Chine de 1949 à nos jours, Paris, Armand Colin, 1989, trad. it. La Repubblica Popolare Cinese dal 1949 ai giorni nostri, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2003.

Chin, Frank - Chan, Jeffery Paul - Inada, Lawson Fusao - Wong, Shawn (eds.), Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers, Washington D.C., Howard University Press, 1974.

Chin, Frank - Chan, Jeffery Paul - Inada, Lawson Fusao - Wong, Shawn, (eds.), The Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature, New York, Meridian, 1991.

Dirlik, Arif - Zhang, Xudong (eds.), Postmodernism and China, DurhamLondon, Duke University Press, 2000.

Foucault, Michel, Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison, Paris, Éditions Gallimard, 1975, trad. it. Sorvegliare e Punire. Nascita della prigione, Torino, Einaudi, 1993.

Fusco, Serena, “Blurring the Lines: dal nazionalismo culturale alla diaspora”, Izzo, Donatella (ed.), Suzie Wong non abita più qui. La letteratura delle minoranze asiatiche negli Stati Uniti, Milano, Shake, 2006: 94-124.

Izzo, Donatella (ed.), Suzie Wong non abita più qui. La letteratura delle minoranze asiatiche negli Stati Uniti, Milano, Shake, 2006.

Khatibi, Abdelhebir, “Double Critique: The Decolonization of Arab Sociology”, Contemporary North Africa: Issues of Development and Integration, Ed. Halim Barakat, London, Croon Helm, 1985.

Khatibi, Abdelhebir, Maghreb pluriel, Paris, Denoël, 1983.

Kuo, Alex, Chinese Opera, Hong Kong, Asia 2000, 1998.

Id., My Private China, Hong Kong, Blacksmith Books, 2013a.

Id., “Exclusive Interview with Alex Kuo Author of My Private China”, The Ambassadors Magazine 2013b, http://ambassadors.net/archives/issue34/features.htm, online (ultimo accesso 09-05-2015).

Lowe, Lisa, “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Marking Asian American Differences”, Diaspora, 1.1 (1991): 24-44.

Mao, Zedong, Mao Zedong xuanji (Antologia degli scritti di Mao Zedong), Beijing, Renmin chubanshe, 1968.

Mignolo, Walter, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000.

Spivak, Gayatri, “Can the Subaltern Speak? Speculations on Widow-Sacrifice”, Wedge, 7.8 (1985): 120-130.

Sugano, Douglas, “Alex Kuo”, Asian American Novelists: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson, Westport (CT), Greenwood Press, 2000: 168-171.

Vastolo, Manuela,“Mao Zedong from a Trans-Pacific American literary perspective”, American Solitudes: Individual, National, Transnational. Proceedings of the XVIII International AISNA Conference, Bari October 5-8 2005, Eds. Donatella Izzo - Giorgio Mariani - Paola Zaccaria, Roma, Carocci, 2007: 442-447.

Wang Jing, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng's China, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996.

Wang Ning, “Postmodernity, Postcoloniality, and Globalization: a Mainly Chinese Cultural and Literary Prospective”, Frame, 19.2 (2006): 31-49.

Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia, “Denationalization Reconsidered: Asian American Cultural Criticism at a Theoretical Crossroads”, Amerasia Journal 21, 1.2 (1995): 1-27.

Yang Xiaobin, “Toward a Theory of Postmodern/Post-Mao–Deng Literature”, Contested Modernities in Chinese Literature, Ed. Charles A. Laughlin, New York, Macmillan, 2005: 81-97.

Zhang, Xudong, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 1997.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1581

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-16912

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Between Journal is published by the University of Cagliari - Maintenance for this OJS installation is provided by UniCA  Open Journals, hosted by Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo.

Between Journal was founded in 2011 with the financial contribution of Fondazione Banco di Sardegna (year 2010-2011).

ISSN 2039-6597

CC-By lockssDOAJ seal SPARC Europe