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Writers Tell Stories of Literary Life

More than 2,000 writers and artists gathered in Beijing last week for meetings hosted by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and the Chinese Writers' Association to discuss ways to promote literary and artistic development in China. In their interviews with China Daily reporter Liu Jun, three writers - Zhang Xianliang, Wang Anyi and Tie Ning give their views on developments in literature.

Born in 1936, Zhang Xianliang received instant fame when the film "Muma Ren (Horse Herder)" adapted from his novel Ling Yu Rou (Soul and Body) was shown in 1982.

His works attracted readers' attention as it focused on the fate of average people with the ups and downs in the nation.

In the early 1990s, however, Zhang surprised the Chinese literary circle when he decided to set up a film base in the barren Gobi Desert of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Today, the West China Film City outside Ningxia's capital of Yinchuan has become a noted tourist spot where many Chinese films have been shot.

"I just want to have more experiences and get closer to the market economy," said Zhang, who is also the chairman of the Writers' Association of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. This experience will one day come out in his work, he said.

Zhang said he is writing a long novel on the "history of the soul." In one passage in the book, the soul moves into different bodies every two or three decades.

But he refrained from letting out more about his new novel.

Zhang welcomes the Internet, which he said gives more people the chance to write.

"There will surely be some good writers," he said. "But there will also be quite a deal of rubbish.

"The Internet will also give readers more choice."

At the same time, he doesn't believe that the Internet can change the nature of literature, which he regards as "the art of language."

"The Internet is just another carrier of language," he said.

Language difference

Wang Anyi, 47, published her first novel in 1977. Her work Changhen Ge (Song of Everlasting Sorrow), published in 1996, has gained her international fame and has been translated into English, Japanese, French and several other languages.

Talking about the Nobel Prize for literature, she said: "Chinese literature is limited due to the language difference. Western readers can only get to know what they find most easily to read," said Wang, whose mother, Ru Zhijuan, is also an established writer.

But she said she doesn't think that the Nobel Prize in literature means everything. For Chinese writers, the awards surrounding the Chinese literary circle might be more meaningful, said Wang, who recently gained an award from Malaysia for her literary works.

Wang recently became the chairwoman of the Shanghai Writers' Association. She doesn't join in with daily routine work but prefers to concentrate on her writing.

Her latest novel is going to be published in the Chinese language bimonthly magazine, October. As always, she will focus on the intricate feelings of some common people living in a small town in southern China where she grew up.

Productive writer

Tie Ning has been a productive writer since her maiden novel Oh, Xiangxue (1982) about a rural girl exchanging a basket of eggs for a pencil box.

She said that China has joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), every writer will have to adapt to the situation.

She welcomes the change, saying that China's WTO entry will help improve the protection of intellectual property in China. Many of her works have suffered from piracy, she said. The protection of intellectual property rights is an integral part of China joining the rest of the world, she said.

Tie, 44, has authorized a few Internet companies to publicize her works. Since 1998, the Internet company Bookoo.com has purchased the publication rights of some of her chosen works.

"They are far-sighted, and the action shows respect to the writers," she said.

But there are also other Internet websites that just publicize the writers' work without permission. Last year, only a few days after her books were published in China, an online network in the United States published her entire work without gaining permission first.

In the past, some Chinese writers thought that the Internet would help them promote their work. Today, more and more writers have realized the importance of upholding their rights.

The Chinese Writers' Rights Protection Committee in the Chinese Writers' Association, where Tie is vice-chairwoman, has helped many writers win legal battles against piracy.

In 2002, an illustrated de luxe edition with some 80 pictures that Tie loves the most and more than 150,000 words probing her feelings for these paintings will be released.

"I'm sure it's worth reading," she said.

(China Daily December 25, 2001)

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