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In this essay, Yan Lianke begins with several anecdotes from his childhood to describe how, when he was young, his life objectives included yearning to eat well, yearning for people's respect, and yearning for “modern urban civilization,” and how it was the combination of these ideals and objectives that led him to want to leave the countryside and move to the city. He then describes how, after encountering the practical implications of power while working in the army, he resolved to give up his earlier pursuit of “money, fame, and power,” and instead focus on writing literature as his primary ideal. The essay then considers a wide array of foreign authors such as Kafka, Camus, Woolf, Beckett, Proust, Faulkner, Borges, García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Alejo Carpentier, with a focus on the values and beliefs that underlie their works.

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