Neither Fact nor Fiction: Endnotes, Mythorealism and Reading "Inner Truth" in Yan Lianke's Lenin's Kisses (Shouhuo)

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Department of English, NTNU


This essay provides a new reading of Yan Lianke's 2004 novel Lenin's Kisses by focusing on its use of paratext, specifically the endnotes that make up the novel's "Further Reading" sections. Main text and endnote regularly feature alongside urban and rural, utopia and anti-utopia on the long list of oppositional pairings explored in the novel. In contrast, I argue that the notes undermine these pairings by pointing to the subjectivity of such categories. I show how Yan destabilizes the division between main text and endnote by allowing their function to overlap. The false division of text then maps onto the other oppositions in Lenin's Kisses, revealing difference as nothing more than a veneer. The notes allow Yan to critique practices of labelling and categorizing, becoming the aesthetic expression of his "mythorealist" (shenshizhuyi) genre. Lenin's Kisses is here read as an "interactive" text, full of commentary on the pervasive and destructive nature of social categories.