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