This is a translation of ‘我们生活里缺少什么？’, Part 1 of the text 野百合花 (‘Wild Lillies’), written by the Chinese writer 王實味 (‘Wang Shiwei’) in 1942 in Yan’an.
There are a few points I wasn’t too sure about in this translation – if anyone has any suggestions please share them in the comments at the end of the page.
1. What are we lacking in life?
The youths at Yan’an recently have seemed to live without enthusiasm, and as if there are no good feelings in their bellies.
Why? What are we lacking in life?
Some people reply: “We are malnourished, we lack vitamins, so…”
Others reply: “The proportion of men to women in Yan’an is 18:1 – many youths can’t find partners, so…
Others reply: “Our life in Yan’an is too monotonous, too dry, and lacks amusement, so…”
None of these responses is unreasonable.
If we want to eat better, if we want partners, if we want to live more interestingly, these are all completely right and proper.
But no-one can deny that the youths of Yan’an all cling firmly to the spirit of sacrifice in order to carry out the revolution, and are certainly not pursuing fulfillment of their lust and hunger or amusement in life.
Saying that they lack enthusiasm, even that there is no good feeling in their bellies, is only because we can’t offer a satisfactory solution to these problems; I don’t dare to agree with that too readily.
So, what exactly are we lacking in life?
The following talk may give some insight.
During the New Year vacation, one evening I was coming home from a friend’s house.
In the twilight, ahead I saw two young female comrades speaking quietly and excitedly.
Once I was within ten feet of them, I lightened my footsteps and concentrated, listening carefully:
“They are always ready to accuse others of petty bourgeois egalitarianism;
actually, he seems to embrace elitism.
Everyone only takes care of their own particulars; as for the comrades underneath them, if they break their bodies then they break their bodies, if they’re ill they’re ill, if they die they die, and they pretty much don’t care!”
“Ugh! Everywhere the crows and ravens are the same black – our comrade so-and-so is like that too!”
“What flowery language they use! Fraternal class love – what’s that? Bullshit!
It seems like there isn’t even sympathy between people!
They often greet people with smiles; actually their skin laughs but insides don’t, or their insides laugh but their heart doesn’t.
Whenever they are a bit offended, they’d glower at you, put on the air of a senior member and chide you.”
“The big-wigs are like that, and so are the underlings.
Our section chief, so-and-so, to his seniors he’s reverent and deferential, but to us, even though his manner is lively, several times when comrades have been ill, he doesn’t even turn his head to take a look.
But, one time an eagle took one of his chicks, and look how much he cared about that incident!
After that, every time he saw an eagle flying over, he’d howl and shout at it, throw bits of mud at it – a bastard who’s all for himself and his personal gain!”
They were silent for a moment.
Whilst I admired the cutting mouth of this female comrade, at the same time I felt disappointed as if I had lost something.
“There really are too many comrades falling sick, and thinking of it makes you sad.
Actually, if you fall ill, you really don’t want that kind of person to see you.
He’ll only add to your suffering.
His voice, his expression, his attitude – none of it makes you feel that he cares about you or wants to take care of you.”
“In two years I’ve changed work unit three or four times, but those senior members and section chiefs, the leadership category, the ones who really care about the cadres and cherish the cadres, they truly are few and far between.”
“That’s right – not a word wrong! They have no love for other people, so naturally other people have no love for them.”
“If they take this attitude in doing mass work, it will definitely be their undoing…”
They continued to speak quietly and excitedly.
Because I was taking a different road, I only heard up to that point, this conversation may be biased and exaggerated, and what they described may not be generally applicable…
but we can’t deny that it had the function of a mirror.
What are we lacking in life?
Look in the mirror.
← Preface · Part 1