6/5 Event: Jiang Yitan, Ge Fei, Li Er, Bei Cun, Qiu Huadong

By Eric Abrahamsen, published

What looks like a great event at the One Way Bookstore this Saturday, 3-5pm. Jiang Yitan discussing his new book Lu Xun's Beard (鲁迅的胡子), in an event themed "Reading Quiet Fiction in an Unquiet Age". Also speaking are Li Er, one of our favorites, Ge Fei, often considered Li Er's mentor, Bei Cun, and Qiu Huadong, a writer of urban fiction to watch.

The One Way Street Bookstore's website appears to be down, here are the details:

Date/Time: June 5 (Saturday), 3-5pm
Address: Beijing, Solana (蓝色港湾), building 11, number 16
Phone: 010-59056973


# 1.   

Qiu Huadong was "in transit" and missed the panel, but the remaining guests carried on an interesting discussion. Ge Fei probably spoke the most, Li Er the least.

Some notes (they're kind of spotty; The Beijing News printed a condensed transcript in last weekend's book review section which you can consult for more information):

Jiang gave a synopsis of his two identities, author and publisher: he wrote some best-selling novels early on, in 1994, including Peking Lover (北京情人), which sold 700,000 copies but for which was paid just 15,000 yuan. He stopped writing and moved into publishing. Now, he's concentrating on short stories because he sees a niche. In response to a later question regarding the title story, Jiang said that his plan is to title each collection with the name of a favorite celebrity (his previous volume was titled The Statue of Clint Eastwood 伊斯特伍德的雕像), and that the story "Lu Xun's Beard" had a first draft of 97,000 characters that he later edited down to under 30,000.

Someone remarked that some of the most famous early modern Chinese authors (such as Liu E) actually pursued other careers and were only writers in their spare time.

Li Er noted that authors used to start by writing short stories before attempting longer work, but now they write novels first, and thus have lost a fundamental skill set.

In regard to the "death of literature", Ge Fei said that what we are seeing is merely a change -- what is dying is "Modern literature." He noted (citing Benjamin) that from the story (故事), literature moved toward the novel (小说), and now has moved to information (信息). Jiang is returning to a more traditional mode of storytelling, "using a simple story to engage us in conversation" (通过一种简单的故事来跟我们对话).

One question involved the transcendent and how it isn't anthropomorphized in traditional Chinese culture. Bei Cun especially made reference to Biblical stories like Job and the adulterous woman which are exemplary short stories.

Other questions involved Microblogs as literature, black humor and Lu Xun, whether Ge Fei will return to his avant garde roots (he's moved on), and whether Ge Fei was serious about prescribing a sharp break between the academy and literary creativity.

Recommended authors: Dung Kai Cheung (董启章 from Hong Kong), Ding Tian (丁天).

jdmartinsen, June 19, 2010, 8:51a.m.


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