A Trilogy of Jiangnan consists of a series of long, yet masterly composed, works. Having initially been conceived during the middle of the 1990s, they underwent deep changes and was finished in 2011. While staunchly sticking to the art of writing, he presents the transformational trajectory of the inner spirit of the Chinese society for more than a century. He did so with the skill of his penetrative thinking and unique narrative.
With a very solemn and responsible attitude towards reality and history, the trilogy shows its deep concern with modern China’s broad stance towards both itself and the outside world. With a space of one hundred years and through the clashes between the history of revolution and that of spirit, this trilogy deals with some critical themes on modernity. The explorations and pursuits made by the three different generations mentioned in the novel are entwined with their cravings for emancipation, as well as their passion for ideals. Between the rise and fall, success and failure, sorrow and happiness, gathering and separation, the individual’s personality traits and fates find their corresponding reflections in the grand historical events. His deep thinking on the values of society shapes an artistic world that is, albeit piece by piece and heartening, yet broad, noble, and clairvoyant.
This trilogy is Chinese style-specific in that, whilst including an acute cultural awareness, Ge Fei experiments in restoring and transforming the novel writing traditions in the Ming- and Qing dynasties. Its subtle form of expression and narration, elegant language, cyclical inner-structure similar to that in Spring and Autumn, broaden the cultural space, raise the artistic height, and create a new language. All of these being instrumental in expressing the lived Chinese experiences and histories.
The opening novel Human Faces and Peach Flowers of A Trilogy of Jiangnan has at its disposal suspense after suspense, which in turn create more food for thought and imagination. Ge Fei, with his usual elegance, grace and leisure, puts a young woman’s destiny in connection with the thick history of contemporary China. He manages to give full expression to complexity through simplicity, to chaos through clarity, and attaining to an allegorical depth through realistic description.
The second novel, Mountains and Rivers Entering His Dream, includes full details, racy language and tranquil yet in-depth thinking, and paints a sketch of a Chinese real society in the middle of the twentieth century. The story then presents the twists and turns of an individual’s fate and his spiritual pursuit at a drastically transformed time.
The third one, Jiangnan Fully in Spring, which is also the finishing touch of the trilogy, evolves around the life accidents and spiritual transformations of the protagonist. It displays issues within a pluralistic society. Such examples include educational problems, judicial problems, news publicity issues, issues concerning the relationship between officials and businesses, and much more. Its concerns are multidimensional in the sense that they involve familial ethics, occupational morality, ways to govern well, as well as clashes and reconciliations between environment and development to name a few. With admirable sincerity and courage, and by using his sharp and sensitive pen to approach the epoch, the author shows his firm grasp of the very heart of the spiritual issues which haunted the time painfully.