Friday, 14 March 2014

Path of his own pen - Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke

A writer of Yan Lianke's stature can write what he wants, and he doesn't worry much if the truth hurts his readers - or his book sales, he tells Mei Jia.

Acclaimed Chinese writer Yan Lianke is constantly pushing himself for new approaches and new stories in his literary creation.

The 56-year-old Beijing-based writer has been in the spotlight since his residence became a target of "forceful dismantling", which cost him the place where he has long been weaving pastoral stories and dreams. But he doesn't want to write about that, he says - or about the foggy haze that is worsening outside.

"I see nothing new in those themes," Yan says at a cafe in northwestern Beijing.

His warm account of the lives of his generation and his father's was a commercial success, but he wasn't as pleased as his readers were. Writing a memoir is too easy, the author says.

The productive writer is always eager to create something "refreshing and challenging". He prefers themes with the potential for powerful narration.

Yan writes all of his work by hand, and when he sent his latest novel, The Chronicle of Zhalie, to a typist's company, the boss gave the task to two "better educated" typists.

"I was surprised when I got the text back because it was totally changed from sentence to sentence," Yan says.

Yan's unconventional usage of words and phrases confused the two typists: They changed all the "grammar mistakes" and "incoherent" expressions.

"But I still paid them," he says, with the thick Henan province accent of his birthplace, adding that he had to restore his original style.

The new novel is about the growth of fictional Zhalie village in Henan, from the home of 100 villagers to a super metropolis with a population of 30 million.

The dramatic expansion came on a wave of money accumulated from men being ruffians and women being sex workers.

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