纽约时报 慕容雪村:徘徊在勇士与懦夫之间

RT 【纽约时报】慕容雪村:徘徊在勇士与懦夫之间

当荷兰的研究中国文学的朋友开始翻译慕容雪村的小说时,我不屑一顾说,他的小说也就是一些校园网络文学呀,都是些大学男生的俏皮话和意淫文字。没 想到他比 韩寒还要勇敢一些呀。那个荷兰朋友就是陪我去中共大屎管散发寻人启事的。她应付不了慕容雪村小说里的一些隐晦的表达含义,我帮她解释,都是些校园 颓废色情 文学的内容,津津乐道和几个女人的关系啥的。:) 所以永远不能轻视看似颓废的群体,关键时候他们也会发言。 慕容雪村参与了探访陈光诚行动。

慕容雪村:“中国的写作呈现出精神紊乱的症状,”他打算这么说,“这是‘阉割式写作’。我是个积极主动的太监,主刀的大夫还没动手,我自己就把自 己阉掉了。” 肺腑之言呀。他终于受不了,小宇宙爆发了。

慕容先生的著作描述了中国新兴城市中商人和官员行贿受贿、争权夺利、酗酒、赌博、嫖妓的故事,书中充满了挑逗、暴力和虚无主义的内容。他是腐败的 “获利者”;他的朋友在晚宴上介绍说,他是一位情色作家。


http://dongxi.net/b12XY
【纽约时报】慕容雪村:徘徊在勇士与懦夫之间

www.nytimes.com

译者: 非石头 2011年11月29日 13:28

去年十一月,慕容雪村去北京领取他的第一个文学奖之前,用了8个小时准备获奖感言。他这样写道:“唯一的真相是不能说出真相。唯一的观点是不能发 表观 点。”这段感言长达4000字。但最后,慕容雪村一个字也没有说。

频道: 文化 类别: 文章 标签: 纽 约时报慕 容雪村网 络写手
所属专栏: 纽约观点

译文

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去年底,当慕容雪村出现在一个在一个在北京举行的颁奖仪式上,领取他获得的第一个文学奖时,手里紧紧抓着一张纸。那张纸上写 的,是他以前从未写过的最具煽动性的话。

那是对审查制度导致的不安进行的思考。“中国的写作呈现出精神紊乱的症状,”他打算这么说,“这是‘阉割式写作’。我是个积极 主动的太监,主刀的大夫还没动手,我自己就把自己阉掉了。”

颁奖仪式的组织者没让他说这些话。在颁奖台上,慕容先生做了一个封口的动作,然后一句话都没有就下去了。接着,他像之前处理他 的三部畅销小说一样,将未经删节的发言稿发布到了网上。粉丝蜂拥而去,围观该文。

慕容雪村是郝群的笔名。他今年37岁。在过去的十年里,中国有一群作家因精于使用互联网而成为出版界轰动一时的人物,慕容雪村 便是其中最著名的作家之一。

慕容先生的著作描述了中国新兴城市中商人和官员行贿受贿、争权夺利、酗酒、赌博、嫖妓的故事,书中充满了挑逗、暴力和虚无主义 的内容。他是腐败的“获利者”;他的朋友在晚宴上介绍说,他是一位情色作家。

他的书得以在中国出版,说明曾经被国家严格控制的出版业已变得更加以市场为导向了。

但慕容先生的文章不可避免地遭到了审查制度的责难。尽管出版业在逐步改革,执政党还是决意要维持现状。慕容先生说,在某些人的 眼里,他是一个 “文字犯”。而在他自己看来,他是一个“懦夫”——因为他会对作品进行自我审查。他日渐失望,并因此成为了对中国的审查制度最直言不 讳的批评家之一。虽然 去年11月他在北京保持沉默,但三个月后便在香港发表了遭禁的演讲稿。他还在《纽约时报》的“亚洲社会”栏目谈论过该话题。

慕容先生认为,他之所以在商业上取得成功,是因为发现了在网上从事写作的方法,并建立了粉丝基础。

他在博客和类似于Twitter的微博账户上发表政治话题,如今在微博上拥有近110万粉丝。他边写边用不同的笔名将自己的小 说一章一章地或分 成几个部分发布在网上。这种狄更斯式的连载会引发议论,作品也会得到读者的反馈。一旦书写完了或即将写完,慕容先生就会与出版社签 约。经过审查的纸质版能 够创造经济效益,而网络版更加完整。

2004年,中国国家广播电台在一篇报道中将慕容先生首部大受欢迎的小说称作“网络创新者”,该报道后来被《人民日报》转载在 其官网上。故事的 背景设在成都,但该市的官员对此予以否认。小说《成都,今夜请将我遗忘》(以下简称《成都》)的未删节版,被汉学家Harvey Thomlinson译成了英文《Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu》,并在2008年获得了颇有声望的曼氏亚洲文学奖(Man Asian Literary Prize)的提名。

一天下午,慕容雪村坐在北京26楼的公寓里,一边俯瞰着西山,一边一支接一支地抽着烟。说起网络创作,他那孩子般的脸上现出弄 臣的笑容:“我只是发现这么做非常有趣。后来,我意识到网络作家和读者改变了中国文学的进程,并引发了一种新现象。”

网络允许发出各种不同的声音,并由此引发了中国出版业的一场革命。出版社可以从中发掘新的写作天才并购买纸质版版权。所有这些 促成了过去十年里的市场改革,并在党内引发了如何培育和监管出版业的争论。

尽管审查制度压制了创造能力,但政府也渴望中国的文化成果在国内外赢得尊敬。十月,在结束了为期四天的文化和意识形态决策会议 后,中共中央表 示,中国需要创作出更多“杰出的文化成果”,提高软实力和“文化安全”。上周,《人民日报》发表评论文章,呼吁国家将出版社打造成具 有国际影响力的公司, 这样,它们出版的作品就有助于传播“社会主义核心价值观”。一些官员还盼望着中国大陆作家能够获得诺贝尔文学奖。

长期以来,中国的统治者对书籍有一种复杂的感情,他们会宣传那些神圣地记载着官方思想和历史的书籍,而将其他的书籍列为
书或 者将它们销毁。中 国古代的大一统者秦始皇曾经做过“焚书坑儒”之事;在18世纪,成千上万的书及它们的作者因为大逆不道而被乾隆皇帝除去,同时他还汇 编了卷帙浩繁的皇家藏 书并将它们出版发行。

上世纪80年代,智力成果再次呈现百花齐放之势。余华、莫言和苏童等作家将批判的眼光投向了中国历史和农村社会。王朔创作了城 市“痞子”文学。但到了上世纪90年代末期,网络的传播才真正打开了闸门。

更年轻的作家们在网上创作出了繁荣时代的中国故事。“榕树下”这个网站尤其具有影响力,上面发表了安妮宝贝、宁财神和李寻欢 (路金波的笔名,目 前是支持慕容先生的杰出出版人)的作品。近年来,互联网火了各种流派的小说,网上书店的书如今门类齐全:科幻小说、玄幻小说、恐怖小 说、侦探小说、青少年 言情小说,还有最最赚钱的童书。

“互联网上引发了所有在2005年及之后大受欢迎的文学趋势——对,我是说所有的文学趋势,”企鹅出版集团中国分公司总经理 Jo Lusby表示。

中国的出版制度

自从中国共产党在1949年执政以来,现在出版的书比以往任何时候都多。官方数据显示,2010年大约出版了32.8部,比 2001年多了一倍多。

但政府仍然掌握着重要的管制工具。新闻出版总署不允许真正增加获得官方许可的出版社。去年,这样的出版社共有581家,只比 2001年增加了19家。所有的出版社均为国家所有,政府正在对它们进行整顿。

那些数字并未反映出一个重要的现象:市场需求催生了大量的民营出版机构。为了能够出版图书,它们要么必须跟国有出版社合作,组 建合资企业,要么 每部书都从国有出版社那里购买一个国际标准书号——这种情况更为常见。从形式上说,这种操作方式是违法的,但好几年来,政府都对此熟 视无睹。对作品的监管 也将更加严格——今年,官方已经声明,他们更愿意看到民营出版社成为合资企业,这将意味着这些出版社将受到更多的监管,也将有助于将 国有企业推向市场。

至于审查,主编们充当着最后的把关者。他们知道,如果出版物令当权者感到震怒,他们会丢掉饭碗。有关特殊题材(如军事或宗教) 的非小说类纪实文学,还需经过相关部门的审查。出版人路先生说,在出版界,“每个人心里都有阴影。”

今年六月,官方杀鸡儆猴,突然关停了珠海出版社。那是一家小型国有企业,被关闭之前出版过曾遭到一些中国领导人痛斥的香港报纸 发行人黎智英的回忆录。

由于网络监控的存在,网络也没有将作家们完全解放。一些作家因为害怕被盗版而不情愿将整部作品发布在网上。慕容先生说,因为这 个原因,他没有将自己最近写的书——一部关于非法传销的非小说类作品——发布在网上。

作者小心翼翼地避开这些问题,结果做了本该政府做的事情。慕容先生表示,他放弃了两本正在写的小说,因为他怀疑它们永远也不可 能出版。

“审查制度的最坏之处,是会在心理上给写作者们造成影响,”慕容先生说,“我在写第一本书时,不在乎它是否会出版,所以我想写 什么就写什么。如 今,在出版了几本书后,我在写作时能清楚地感受到审查制度的影响。例如,我会考虑某个句子,然后意识到它肯定会被删掉。之后我甚至不 会把它写下来。这种自 我审查是最糟糕的。”

互联网触发灵感

2008年,当慕容先生和路先生在就要完成关于腐败的法制系统的小说《原谅我红尘颠倒》的出版计划时,他们进行了争论。路先生 之前从珠海出版社 购买了书号,他告诉慕容先生说想限制印量,因为该书太那什么了。在一次接受采访时,路先生说,慕容雪村是“最杰出的不到40岁的作 家”,但又补充说:“慕 容有个毛病——他的作品太悲观了。”

“他是一个孤独的虚无主义者,什么都不信,”路先生说。

慕容先生曾在中国发展最快的城市生活过数年,他的四部小说和一部调查报告便是以这样的经历为基础写成的。他来自吉林省的一个农 村家庭,大学时在 地处北京的中国政法大学上学。那所大学培养法官、律师和警察,这些人也成了他小说中的主角。后来,慕容先生离开成都去了深圳,然后又 到了广州,在公司里做 过各种工作,如法律顾问。

他兼职写稿子,把写好的故事寄给杂志社,但只收到过退稿信。之后,他意外地在自己供职的一家广州化妆品公司索芙特 (Softo)发现了公司的内部网络论坛。数百名公司员工在上面发帖,不过,公司外部的人也能进去。业余爱好者将他们的诗歌、短篇小 说和连载小说发布在上面。

“我看到了一部题为《我的北京》的小说,它鼓舞了我,”慕容先生说,“我想,‘我也能写出这样的东西来。’”

2002年,他开始写《成都,今夜请将我遗忘》这部小说。他用“买女孩的小火柴”——对安徒生的作品《卖火柴的小女孩》——这 个笔名边写边将内 容发布在网上。这部创新小说恶名远扬,并被转载到各大论坛上。这是一部令人爱不释手的粗俗小说:小说的主人公陈重是一家汽车润滑油及 部件公司的员工,经常 给别人行贿,还与人通奸。小说中有在酒吧和妓院的XXOO场景。他最要好的朋友之一是一个腐化堕落的警察。

但可能连慕容先生都对互联网无拘无束的特性感到吃惊。在网上发布了26章内容后,他做了一次长长的商务旅行。等他回来时,发现 已经有人写了第27章。“我被盗版了,”他笑着说到。现在,那本书有了两个版本。

在大多数情况下,在网上写作意味着避开了审查制度。纸质版是有区别的。慕容先生签署合同把《成都》一书交由出版商周文出版后, 他被迫删去了1万字。

不过,他想出了另外一个办法——那本书出版后,他在网上发布了未经审查的原稿,那甚至比他之前在网上一章一章写的还要完整。 “真的有一种释然的感觉,”他说。

一些作家怀疑,网上未经审查的书能产生那么大的影响吗?《盛世:中国,2013年》的作者陈冠中看到他的书被粉丝们发布在网 上,至少有两个版 本。但他说他相信只有一小部分中国大陆的读者能在网上看到,因为它不可能出现在新闻媒体或任何论坛中公认讨论。“大多数人都不知道这 些书,”陈先生表示, “所以他们也不会到网上去搜索。”

慕容先生最终说服了另一家出版社出版完整版的《成都》。在中国,版权的有效期通常为三年至五年。

“一旦某本书通过审查后得以出版,它就是合法出版物,”慕容先生说,“几年后你就可以出版完整版了。逻辑是这样的:如果第一版 没有遭禁,为什么要禁第二版呢?”

学习底线

他的第二本书叫《天堂向左,深圳向右》,讲的是关于年轻人想在深圳发财的故事。在这部作品中,慕容先生开始收敛。他说:“经历 了第一本书的编辑过程后,我已经知道底线在哪里了。”

还有一个因素推动他进行自我审查。“我总是能和编辑成为朋友,”他说,“我不想给我的朋友们惹麻烦。如果他们说某句话是有风险 的,或如果他们可能因此失业,我会让他们删除他们想要删除的话。”

像《成都》一样,《深圳》的完整版也发布在网上。慕容先生的第四部小说——关于司法系统的小说——的未经审查的版本被当做电子 书出售。

例如,完整版的小说有一个情节,主人公,一个堕落的律师,在死牢里被要求签字放弃自己的器官。

“鉴于我了解自己的自我审查倾向,我在写这个场景时就试图弥补这一点,”慕容先生说,“我可以写一个版本,出版一个‘更干净’ 的版本。”

但有时纸质版第一版的内容可能令人感到吃惊。慕容先生的第三部小说《多数人死于贪婪》对中国物欲横流的现象进行了批评,其中描 述了一个富豪们在一家餐馆食用女人胸部、喝处女之血的场景。

随着慕容先生声名鹊起,官方的作家协会邀请他加入,但他拒绝了他们的主动示好。同时,他转变了写作风格,写起了审查得比小说还 严的新闻报道。

慕容先生与和平出版社的一位编辑在《中国,少了一味药》一书中进行合作时,经历了与审查制度最艰苦的斗争。那是他的最新作品, 是一部记录其卧底 23天对传销骗局进行调查的纪实小说。连“中国人”这样的话都得改为“一些人”。慕容先生冲着编辑大声叫嚷,将一只杯子摔在地板上, 还狠狠地用拳头砸家里 的墙。

这就像有人无缘无故地用鞭子抽我,”慕容先生说,“在2008年,审查制度很严,我可以忍受。但到了2010年,我受不了 了。”

该书责任编辑张敬涛(音译)说,他希望“使这部作品更适合我们所处的社会和时代”。

“出版是文化活动,它属于意识形态领域,“张先生说,”我的工作就是控制意识形态的正确性。”

尽管这部作品并不完整,但去年还是在一片叫好声中出版了。报纸刊登文章说,是慕容雪村提醒了警察去注意那些传销团伙。这部作品 曾在《人民文学》(毛泽东曾参与创办该杂志)上连载。该刊编辑决定将年度文学奖授予慕容先生。

去年十一月,就在举行颁奖典礼的前一天,慕容雪村用了8个小时准备获奖感言。他这样写道:“唯一的真相是不能说出真相。唯一的 观点是不能发表观点。”感言稿长达4000字。但最后,慕容雪村一个字也没有说。

非石头 翻译了本文,授权本站发表并对本译文保留权利。如有问题请 联系本站


Pushing China’s Limits on Web, if Not on Paper

Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

The Chinese author, Murong Xuecun, in Qingdao, China.  “The worst effect of the censorship is the psychological impact on writers.”

By EDWARD WONG

Published: November 6, 2011

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BEIJING — When the novelist Murong Xuecun showed up at a ceremony here late last year to collect his first literary prize, he clutched a sheet of paper with some of the most incendiary words he had ever written.

Culture and Control

A Writer’s Choices

Articles in this series are exploring the struggle to shape the culture of authoritarian China.

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Word Crimes

Related

    An Excerpt from ‘Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu’(November 6, 2011)

    Murong Xuecun’s Acceptance Speech for the 2010 People’s Literature Prize (November 6, 2011)

    Times Topics: China | Censorship

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Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

Murong Xuecun has won fame with nihilistic novels.

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Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

Murong Xuecun signing copies of his book “Dancing Through Red Dust” at Ocean University of China in Qingdao, China, last month.

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Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

Lu Jinbo, a prominent publisher, supports and admires Mr. Murong, but says, “He has one problem: his writings are too dark.”

It was a meditation on the malaise brought on by censorship. “Chinese writing exhibits symptoms of a mental disorder,” he planned to say. “This is castrated writing. I am a proactive eunuch, I castrate myself even before the surgeon raises his scalpel.”

The ceremony’s organizers forbade him to deliver the speech. On stage, Mr. Murong made a zipping motion across his mouth and left without a word. He then did with the speech what he had done with three of his best-selling novels, all of which had gone through a harsh censorship process: He posted the unexpurgated text on the Internet. Fans flocked to it.

Murong Xuecun (moo-rong shweh-tswen) is the pen name of Hao Qun. At 37, he is among the most famous of a wave of Chinese writers who have become publishing sensationsin the past decade because of their canny use of the Internet.

Mr. Murong’s books are racy and violent and nihilistic, with tales of businessmen and officials engaging in bribe-taking, brawling, drinking, gambling and cavorting with prostitutes in China’s booming cities. He is a laureate of corruption, and his friends have introduced him at dinner parties as a writer of pornography.

That his books are published at all in China shows how the industry, once carefully controlled by the state, has become more market-driven.

But Mr. Murong’s prose inevitably runs up against censorship, which the Chinese Communist Party is intent on maintaining despite the publishing industry’s gradual changes. Mr. Murong says he is a “word criminal” in the eyes of the state, and a “coward” in his own eyes for engaging in self-censorship. His growing frustrations have pushed him to become one of the most vocal critics of censorship in China. After zipping his mouth in Beijing last November, he delivered his banned speech three months later in Hong Kong. He also discussed the issue last weekend in New York at the Asia Society.

Mr. Murong owes his commercial success to the fact that he has found ways to practice his art and build a fan base on the Internet, outside the more heavily policed print industry.

He addresses political issues on both a blog and a microblog account that resembles Twitter, which has nearly 1.1 million followers. He posts his novels chapter by chapter or in sections online under different pseudonyms as he writes. This Dickens-style serialization generates buzz, and the writing evolves with reader feedback. Once the book is finished or nearly so, Mr. Murong signs with a publisher. The censored print editions make money, but the Internet versions are more complete.

In 2004, the state-run China Radio International called Mr. Murong’s popular first novel a “cyber trendsetter” in a report that was reposted on the Web site of the newspaper People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece. Local officials in the city of Chengdu, where the story is set, denounced it. The uncensored version of the novel, “Chengdu, Please Forget Me Tonight,” was translated into English (“Leave Me Alone: A Nove
l of Chengdu”) by Harvey Thomlinson and nominated in 2008 for the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize.

“I simply found it extremely fun to do,” Mr. Murong said of writing online, as he chain-smoked one afternoon in his 26th-floor Beijing apartment overlooking the Western Hills, a jester’s grin on his boyish face. “Later, I realized that the writers and readers on the Internet changed the course of Chinese literature and started a new phenomenon.”

The Internet has ignited a revolution in China’s publishing industry by allowing a diversity of voices to bloom. Publishing houses can spot new talents and buy the rights for print editions. All this has contributed to the market reforms of the past decade and debate within the party about how to both nurture and control the industry.

Although its systemic censorship crushes creativity, the party craves domestic and international respect for China’s cultural output. After a four-day policy meeting on culture and ideology in October, the party’s Central Committee said China needed to bolster its soft power and “cultural security” with more “outstanding cultural products.” Last week, People’s Daily ran a commentary that called for the state to build up publishing houses into companies with international brands so their books can help spread “socialist core values.” And some officials ache for a mainland Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prizefor Literature.

Chinese rulers have long had a complicated relationship with books, promoting ones that enshrine official thought and history while banning or destroying others. Qin Shihuang, ancient China’s unifier, burned books and buried scholars alive. In the 18th century, theQianlong Emperor purged thousands of texts and their authors for treasonous ideas while assembling a vast imperial collection to be printed. Mao Zedong and his comrades were no different.

As intellectual discourse began to flower again in the 1980s, writers like Yu Hua, Mo Yanand Su Tong cast a critical eye on Chinese history and rural society. Wang Shuo wrote urban “hooligan” literature. But it was the spread of the Internet in the late 1990s that really opened the floodgates.

Younger writers went online to tell tales of boom-era China. One Web site, Rongshuxia, was particularly influential, carrying novels by Annie Baobei, Ning Caishen and Li Xunhuan (the pen name of Lu Jinbo, now a prominent publisher who supports Mr. Murong). In recent years, the Internet has popularized genre fiction, and bookstores here now stock the whole gamut: science fiction and fantasy, horror, detective, teenage romance and, most lucrative of all, children’s stories.

“The Internet created all, and I say all, the literary trends that took off in 2005 and afterward,” said Jo Lusby, managing director of Penguin China.

Power Over Publishing

More books are being printed now than at any time since the Communist Party took power in 1949. In 2010, about 328,000 titles were published, more than double the number in 2001, according to official statistics.

But the government still wields important instruments of control. The agency overseeing the industry, the General Administration of Press and Publication, has not allowed real growth in the houses officially allowed to publish books. Last year, there were 581 such houses, just 19 more than in 2001. All are state-owned, and the government is moving to consolidate them.

Those numbers do not capture an important phenomenon: Market demand has led to a boom in private houses. To publish, they must either form joint ventures with the state-owned houses or, more often, buy from them International Standard Book Numbers codes, one for each title. On paper, this practice is illegal, but the authorities turned a blind eye to it for years. A tightening could be in the works — this year, officials have said they prefer that the private houses enter into joint ventures, which would mean more oversight and would help push state-owned enterprises toward the market.

As for censorship, chief editors act as the ultimate gatekeepers. They know they could lose their jobs if published material raises the ire of officials. Nonfiction books on special topics like the military or religion go through additional vetting by the relevant ministries. In the industry, “there is a shadow over the hearts of everyone,” said Mr. Lu, the publisher.

In June, officials made an example of Zhuhai Publishing House, a small state-owned company, by abruptly shutting it down. Zhuhai had published a memoir by Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong newspaper publisher reviled by some Chinese leaders.

The Internet does not offer writers total liberation, either, since there are online monitors. And some writers are reluctant to post entire books because of fears of piracy; Mr. Murong said he had not posted his last book, a nonfiction work about a pyramid scheme, for that reason.

Writers looking to avoid these difficulties end up doing the government’s job for it. Mr. Murong said he had abandoned two novels-in-progress that he suspected would never get published. One was called “The Counterrevolutionary.”

“The worst effect of the censorship is the psychological impact on writers,” Mr. Murong said. “When I was working on my first book, I didn’t care whether it would be published, so I wrote whatever I wanted. Now, after I have published a few books, I can clearly feel the impact of censorship when I write. For example, I’ll think of a sentence, and then realize that it will for sure get deleted. Then I won’t even write it down. This self-censoring is the worst.”

Inspired by the Internet

Mr. Murong argued with Mr. Lu when they were completing plans in 2008 to publish “Dancing Through Red Dust,” about the corrupt legal system. Mr. Lu, who had bought an ISBN code from Zhuhai Publishing House, told Mr. Murong that he wanted to limit the print run because the book was too sordid. In an interview, Mr. Lu said Mr. Murong was “the best writer under the age of 40,” but added that “Murong has one problem: his writings are too dark.”

“He’s a loner nihilist who believes in nothing,” Mr. Lu said.

Mr. Murong’s four novels and one work of investigative journalism are based on years spent in China’s fastest-growing cities. He traveled to Beijing from his family’s farm in Jilin Province to attend the China University of Political Science and Law, which trains judges, lawyers and police officers, the kind of people who figure prominently in his novels. Mr. Murong then moved from Chengdu to Shenzhen to Guangzhou, working at companies in various positions like legal adviser.

He wrote on the side and sent stories to magazines, but received only rejection slips. Then he stumbled across an in-house Internet forum at Softo, the cosmetics company where he worked in Guangzhou. Hundreds of company employees posted on it, but people on the outside could also gain access. Amateurs were posting poems, short stories and serialized novels.

“I saw a novel titled ‘My Beijing,’ which inspired me,” Mr. Murong said. “I thought, ‘I can write that kind of thing as well.’ ”

In 2002, he began his novel of Chengdu. Using a pen name, “The Little Match That Sells Girls” — a twisted reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” — he posted his chapters online as he wrote them. The evolving novel gained notoriety and was reposted on forums. It was a bawdy page-turner: the protagonist, Chen Zhong, an employee at an automobile oil and parts company, regularly engages in bribery and adultery. There are sex scenes in bars and brothels. One of his best friends is a corrupt police officer.

But the freewheeling nature of the Internet could surprise even Mr. Murong. After posting Chapter 26, he went on a long business trip. He came back to find that someone else had written Chapter 27. “I had been pirated,” he said with a laugh. Now the book had two lives.

Writing on the Internet meant, for
the most part, working beyond the curtain of censorship. The print world was different. After Mr. Murong signed a contract to have the Chengdu novel published by Zhou Wen, an entrepreneur, he was forced to cut 10,000 words.

But he had an out. After the book was published, he posted an uncensored manuscript on the Internet, one that was even more complete than the chapter-by-chapter version he had written online. “It did feel liberating,” he said.

Some writers are skeptical that uncensored books on the Internet can have much of an effect. Chan Koonchung, the author of “The Fat Years,” a dystopian novel published in Hong Kong and Taiwan but banned on the mainland, has seen at least two electronic versions of his book posted by fans. But he said he believed that only a small number of mainland Chinese would read it online because it could not be discussed in the news media or any other forum. “Most people don’t know about these books,” Mr. Chan said. “So they’re not going to go onto the Internet to look for them.”

Mr. Murong eventually persuaded another house to publish a complete edition of the Chengdu novel. Publication rights generally last three to five years in China, and publishers putting out editions beyond the first one sometimes feel more confident in reinserting passages that were originally censored.

“Once a book gets past the censors and gets published, it is legitimate,” Mr. Murong said. “A couple of years later, you can publish the complete version. The logic is this: If the first version was not banned, why would the second one be?”

Learning the Lines

Mr. Murong began muzzling himself with his second book, “Heaven to the Left, Shenzhen to the Right,” about young people trying to make their fortunes in Shenzhen. “I already knew where the lines were, based on the experience of my first book being edited,” he said.

For example, Mr. Murong had originally intended for his protagonists to have experienced the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown. But he said he did not dare cross this “untouchable red line.”

There was another impetus to self-censorship. “I always become good friends with the editors,” he said. “I don’t want to get my friends in trouble. If they say something is risky, or if they might lose their job over it, I’ll let them delete what they want.”

As with the Chengdu novel, the complete version of the Shenzhen tale exists online. An uncensored version of Mr. Murong’s fourth novel, the one about the legal system, is sold as an e-book.

The intact version has, for example, a scene where the protagonist, a corrupt lawyer, is asked to sign away his organs while on death row.

“Now that I’m aware of my self-censoring tendencies, I try to make up for it while I write,” Mr. Murong said. “I can write one version and publish a ‘cleaner’ version.”

But sometimes it can be surprising what slips into the first print editions. Mr. Murong’s third novel, “Some Die of Greed,” a critique of China’s rampant materialism, has a scene in which wealthy men at a restaurant eat a woman’s breast and drink a virgin’s blood.

As Mr. Murong’s fame grew, the official Writers Association asked him to join, but he rejected their overtures. Meanwhile, he took his work in a new direction, toward journalism, which undergoes more scrutiny from censors than fiction.

Mr. Murong’s most painful struggle with censorship came when he worked with an editor from Heping Publishing House on his latest book, “China: In the Absence of a Remedy,” the nonfiction exposé that documents Mr. Murong’s 23 days spent undercover to investigate a pyramid scheme. There were endless negotiations. Even a phrase like “Chinese people” had to be changed to “some people.” Mr. Murong yelled at the editor, smashed a cup on the floor and punched the wall of his home.

“It was like someone was whipping me for no reason,” Mr. Murong said. “In 2008, the censorship was painful, and I could endure it. But in 2010, I couldn’t endure it anymore.”

Zhang Jingtao, the editor, said he wanted to “make the book more appropriate for our society and our times.”

“Publishing is a cultural activity, which falls under the realm of ideology,” Mr. Zhang said. “My job is to be the ideological quality control.”

The book was published last year to great acclaim, even if it was incomplete. Newspapers ran articles on Mr. Murong’s role in alerting the police to the fraud ring. The book was serialized in People’s Literature, a magazine co-founded by Mao. Its editors decided to award Mr. Murong the magazine’s annual literature prize.

Last November, the day before the award ceremony, Mr. Murong spent eight hours preparing his speech. He wrote: “The only truth is that we cannot speak the truth. The only acceptable viewpoint is that we cannot express a viewpoint.” It was 4,000 words long. In the end, not a single one was spoken.

Mia Li contributed research.

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