A few weeks ago, we travelled to Shanghai to see some events at the Shanghai International Literary Festival, a pretty amazing event featuring a ton of international authors spread over three weekends. We saw three speakers and crammed in the requisite shopping necessary for a trip to the Big City. Oh, and a great dinner at M on the Bund, who were also the hosts of the festival. Here’s what we took in and some memorable quotes that left us thinking.
Rob Gifford, NPR reporter and author of China Road.
On the question of the current unrest in this country: “For some people, identity is more important than progress.”
Zhang Lijia, journalist and author of Socialism is Great!
“China will never become a great nation if there is no reading middle class.” (Our colleague Jiang– not the author of Wolf Totem, below — said the same thing the other night at dinner. “Chinese people don’t read. It’s a big problem.”)
On why she wrote her memoir about working in a missile factory for ten “mind-numbing, soul-destroying” years in English instead of Chinese: “I didn’t want my parents to read it.”
Howard Goldblatt, Notre Dame professor and translator of Jiang Rong’s Wolf Totem. (Reading in the picture below. Seated is Jo Lusby of the novel’s English publisher, Penguin China.)
We bought a copy of Wolf Totem, which won the first annual MAN Asian Literary Prize. I (Joel) have started reading it and so far I like it. The story is based on the author’s own experience living and working with Mongolian sheep herders in the 1960s.
It was a successful and very literary weekend jaunt.