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China: The First Chinese Novel on Twitter?

Lian Yue, an ex-teacher and ex-procurator and now a famous blogger and political commentator in China, announced on his blog that he is starting a novel, entitled 2020, on twitter this month. According to the blog, the novel will last until 2020.

As far as I can tell (and please correct me if I am wrong), this is the first Chinese novel to be released on Twitter. Matt Stewart is said to be the first writer to release a full-length literary novel, The French Revolution, on Twitter. He decided to do so after failing to find a publisher for his ‘risky’ novel. But for Lian Yue, his motivation is quite different. Here is why:


This is like singing in the bath. When you are relaxed, you will entertain yourself; you have the passion for creativity and expression. Bathroom singing could not be published. Those who happen to hear it may suffer. But for the guy who is enjoying himself in the misty bathroom, he could not control himself.


In an extremely harsh environment, creativity will gradually die. The ambiguity and polysemy of words mean it could easily be twisted as evidence of crimes. Because creativity is equivalent to suicide, no one is devoted to it. Words have degraded to become standardized criticisms and judgments.


The weather is warmer; we no longer need to wear so thick. The soil is softer; your footprint could be preserved. It’s like seedling coming out from the crack. At this stage, creativity depends on its ambiguity and polysemy to escape accusations and defend itself. It’s like expressing your love to someone else in such a way that you will not feel ashamed if you are rejected.


However, this is no love affairs. No one knows where the sting lies. If you are careless, you will be hurt. But if you just pretend to be mad and drunk, this will be bad for your artistic thinking. If Li Bai and Huai Su [ancient Chinese poet and calligrapher] dared not to be drunk, they will lose their vitality.


Suppose one is being tortured and pressed into the water. When he is suffocating, but has the chance to take a breath, breathing would be his only concern. When he can breathe normally, breathing would be neglected. He will look for other entertainments. Being on twitter gives me this feeling. For the creative and entrepreneurial ones, let’s meet there.

If you can read Chinese, you can follow the novel on (hashtag #ly2020).


  • So the tweets are the whole book, one sentence at a time? What is the novel about?

  • The tweets are in paragraphs, each with a few sentences. From yesterday’s tweets (the first day), the setting is in contemporary China. It is not clear yet what the novel is about, but we’ll know more as we listen to his singing in the bath :)

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