Paris Review Interview with Ge Fei
For Chinese authors, the question of writing on the city is extremely important. There are many other writers like me who were born in the countryside and moved to big cities. I left my hometown at sixteen, I lived for twenty years in Shanghai, and then I lived for sixteen years in Beijing. Authors like us have spent most of our lives in cities. This is a question I put to my students on a regular basis, and many of them have said our fundamental experiences are still tied to the countryside. But I had one student who gave me a different answer that’s particularly correct—he said that fundamentally China has always been built around rural value systems, and therefore cities are still unfamiliar to us. We don’t understand them. Writing The Invisibility Cloak, I made a point of going to southern Beijing, walking around the streets, memorizing the images, the scenes, understanding what went where, and what was there. I was inspired by a great critic who pointed out if you’re going to write about the city, you have to write about a specific place—you can’t write purely on the basis of your imagination alone.
attached to: Ge Fei