Reviews

The article provides a good glimpse of the still non-translated Xinling shi [The History of the soul] by Zhang Chengzhi. During two hundred years up to 1919, the reader follows the story of this menhuan [branch] of the Jahriyya in China. The eventful historical background is clearly exposed, as well as the identity and strategy of the protagonists. The great Chinese writer, who became in recent years the Chinese Muslim writer, is in quest of perfect leadership, from Mao to the Jahriyya mystical path of Islam. Isn’t he the creator of the term “Little red guards”, in an open letter he wrote, aged 16, with four comrades to President Mao, during the breaking of Cultural Revolution? More strikingly for external observers, both leaders, spiritual and revolutionary, never vacillated in killing so many foes as well those who had faith in them, in the framework of an overall terror policy. Another parallel is interesting: Zhang’s book was banned, then allowed anew, and suffered piracy. Published without the author’s permission, it soon became a “cult book.” A. Garnault’s article sheds light on the book’s multiple literary qualities, on Zhang’s combination of learned and popular registers (including hua’er poetry, whether quoted or created by him). First published right when Zhang was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a rival from his own family, the Xinling shi began its life under quite unfavourable auspices. We know that it was not a hindrance to its success. The article focuses on its message to the government — reminded of a permanent possibility of resistance —, to Muslims — specifically to fundamentalist groups vehemently opposed to Sufism (both Jahriyya and fundamentalists being in strong competition and involved in the authorities’ ruling game, both having representatives at the highest levels of power).

Constance-Hélène Halfon-Michel, Paris
CER: II-4.3.E-422