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Beautiful Teacher by Yan Geling, China Times

陸犯焉識。(取自微博)
嚴歌苓認為《陸犯焉識》由張藝謀改編為電影《歸來》,在鞏俐的詮釋下十分動人。(記者李怡芸攝)
電影《歸來》導演張藝謀。(CFP)
電影《歸來》劇照。(CFP)

由嚴歌苓小說《陸犯焉識》改編的電影《歸來》,近期在坎城電影節受到好評,她自己也對張藝謀的詮釋頗為讚揚,儘管有人批評張藝謀的改編只取原著最後的30頁內容,但嚴歌苓為他抱屈:「別站著說話不腰疼,國內的審核制度大家都是知道的,應該明白影視人在窄路中的苦衷。」

除了《陸犯焉識》,嚴歌苓的小說似乎一向備受影視導演的青睞,從李安拍《少女小漁》開始,包括《天浴》、《金陵13釵》等共13部作品被搬上銀幕,對此她表示:「這其實是一個誤會,我自己都不認為《陸犯焉識》或《扶桑》適合拍成電影,難度非常大。」她也分析不斷有人買她的作品,或許和自己的寫作追求畫面感,喜歡把顏色、氣味都描述出來有關,其次「可能是大家有種不買就沒了的心態!」近日她甚至還被詢問:「還有沒有剩下沒賣的?不管是什麼都行!」

她也指出,因為近年影視改編占去了她的時間,讓她有種「被鞭子趕著往前走」的感覺,不再像寫《小姨多賀》時可以去日本3趟,就為了抓住日本女人的感覺。今年初她發表的新作《賭徒》,寫作過程中她也多次赴澳門學賭,體驗賭客「驚心動魄」的情緒 ,但她自承:「不再能照過去的節奏,再多等一等,再抓準一點了。」

出版多本英文小說的嚴歌苓,曾期許自己一年寫中文小說,隔年寫英文小說,但現階段「還有5家出版社催著交稿」,反觀英文出版社從不催稿,她也就無力再寫英文小說。為了讓自己的文學創作回到過去的自由狀態,嚴歌苓表示:「接下來應該會減少參與影視改編。」

 

http://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20140719001068-260306​

Posted in Yan Geling | Tagged Beautiful Teacher, China, China Times, Peony, Peony Literary Agency, Peony News, Yan Geling

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson, Goodreads

As quoted by the Chinese Communist revolutionary leader and the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Tse Tung, commonly called Chairman Mao,

“In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

Well no wonder why the middle-class Chinese families in the 1930s were so keen on becoming the ‘face’ of the society or, rather say a class society, thus leading to animosity between the poor and rich and the rich used to treat the poor like the untouchables. The rich used to get scared whether if their children befriend someone so poor, that they might lose their ‘face’ in the society. It’s so astounding to see that this type of narrow-mindedness existed in those people and thus giving birth to seed of the Chinese revolution. Not only that, it was shameful to give birth to daughters in the rich family and how they were given away to the poor farmers.

Well it was so fascinating to gather these kinds of knowledge and especially more captivating and alluring to read about a young girl’s life journey during those hard times. A very notable author-cum-award-winning-director/producer-of-5-feature-films-cum-editor-cum-lawyer, Duncan Jepson has remarkably got into the skin of a young Chinese girl living in Shanghai, in his novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai, to narrate her journey from the beautiful gardens to the lavish cage of marriage to the dreadful village outside Shanghai. After reading this book, I learnt that by writing this novel, Duncan has certainly paid tribute to his loving mother as well as to his homeland and the people of his homeland. And as said by the American leader/politician/author, James E. Faust,

“There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” 

And Duncan Jepson has justified these striking words in his novel so brilliantly. Motherhood is not some responsibility but it is a gift of life beyond any material or earthly possessions and how Feng, Duncan’s novel’s primary character realizes this and dons the hat of a mother so beautifully.

A 17year old girl named Xiao Feng, living under the wings of his grandfather, who is her only friend in her family. Since her parents were too focused on their elder daughter, so Feng used to get away with her grandfather into the beautiful gardens where they both used to tend to the beautiful flowers. But her sister’s sudden death changes the course of Feng’s life and simultaneously killing away all her dreams. She gets trapped into her marriage, soon becoming a mother for the first time, but since it was a shame to give birth to daughters, so Feng gives her daughter away to some poor farmers, and when she realizes her loss over her daughter, it was too late. Thus her life turns more painful and unbearable each passing day. Will she ever find her? Will she ever prove herself as a mother? Will she ever find a way to freedom from her cage? Read this book, to find it out and watch you getting bewildered by this exotic and forbidden tale.

It’s so spectacular to see that a man can easily get into the skin of a vulnerable young woman and penning down her journey as well as bringing out the right emotions into her. Even after reading the whole book, I was still stupefied by the fact that how he described each and every emotion of Feng so accurately and how he traced her journey from a young virgin girl to a scared wife to a rich family to being a mother.

Well the characters are very extraordinary and remarkable. Feng, the protagonist, who was first portrayed as an immature (way too immature) young teenage girl, who love tending flowers in her garden and used to compare people and their characteristics with flowers, then becoming the wife to a rich family and finally becoming a mother and then failing at it. All through her journey, we find Feng as being immature vulnerable to scared to confident to determined and finally brave woman and also it was too surprising to see how after suffering from too much pain and torture, in the and she stands as a one true brave and confident lady. Bi, a young lad who is a fisherman’s son, and since his mother was a seamstress to Feng’s sister, he used to visit the garden to catch fish. Eventually, Bi and Feng become more than just friends and being naive, they never understood their feelings toward each other. But their chemistry was quite inevitable and undeniable and very innocent. Xiong Fa was the man Feng was married to, a very coward man, and living under the wings of his mother, who was the First wife to his father. But he was quite caring and loving and never intended to harm Feng. It was Feng who never understood his intentions and feelings. And in the end, Xiong Fa proves to be a good father. Meng Lu, younger son of Feng, was quite intelligent and smart like his mother but he was born with a deformed leg, hence making him a victim of torments from his cousins. But it was amazing to see just like his mother, he too used to see good in people. Sang Yu was Feng’s daughter, whom she traded way with the poor peasants. Although Feng remain guilty all through her life because of her act, but she had a reason behind it. And I was amazed to see even after getting beaten up, thrown away from her, Yu forgives her mother in the end.

Finally Duncan’s writing is something, so lyrical, so poetic and so beautiful that it mesmerizes you completely. You become hooked to the novel till its very end. You laugh, cry and smile along with Feng’s journey. According to me the whole story was very painfully beautiful.

If you want to know about the Chinese customs, narrow-mindedness towards daughters and arranged marriages and how one revolution changed the course o Chinese history, then this book is a must read!

Duncan Jepson, I cannot thank you enough for giving me this honorable opportunity to read your novel. 

P.S. Find yourself falling in love with the novel’s cover and the beautiful texture of the pages!

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/979003866?book_show_action=false​

 

Posted in Duncan Jepson | Tagged All the flowers, All the Flowers in Shanghai, Duncan Jepson, Goodreads, Peony Literary Agency

Continent by Han Han, Ecns.cn

 

Han Han attends a press conference for his new film”Continent” on July 7th, 2014. [Photo/CRIENGLISH.com]

Chinese professional rally driver, and best-selling author Han Han said his new film “Continent” was just a road movie.

Han added he didn’t think about other things much. All he cared about was the state of completeness and if the film was interesting or not.

He, together with film stars Feng Shaofeng and Chen Bolin from Taiwan attended a press conference for the film in Beijing on July 7.

It’s the first time that Han Han has directed a film. The film also stars Wang Luodan and Wallace Chung. It tells stories of a several friends who grow up together set off for a somewhat reckless journey.

The film “Continent” is set to be released in China on July 24th.

http://www.ecns.cn/2014/07-10/123420.shtml

 

Posted in Han Han | Tagged Continent, Ecns.cn, Han, Han Han, Peony Literary Agency, Peony News, This Generation

Coming Home by Yan Geling, Wall Street Journal

Born in Shanghai, author Yan Geling has written numerous well-known Chinese novels, among them The Flowers of War and Lost Daughter of Happiness. But it’s her book The Criminal Lu Yanshi that’s lately been caught up in controversy—even though it was published three years ago.

The Criminal Lu Yanshi tells the story of a Chinese professor sent to a labor camp during the country’s “anti-rightist campaign” of the 1950s, a period during which more than a half-million Chinese were persecuted as intellectuals. The story formed the basis for the hit film “Coming Home,” released in May and directed byZhang Yimou.

But there’s one big difference: the movie eliminated references to the campaign, which is seldom publicly discussed in China, though it did preserve the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political madness and persecution that began in 1966. Instead, it focuses on other aspects of the story and adds new plot lines, including the professor’s struggle on his return from prison to help his wife recover her memory after she suffers the trauma of their separation. Mr. Zhang was widely criticized for his movie’s omissions, in a controversy that fueled debate about censorship in China, as well as renewed attention to Ms. Yan’s book.

China Real Time recently caught up with Ms. Yan, who lives in Berlin, to discuss her thoughts on Mr. Zhang’s adaptation of her work and the background of the controversy. Edited excerpts (translated from the Chinese):

When I saw Coming Home at a movie theater, there were many older people crying, but people born in the 1980s or 1990s didn’t show much emotion. Why do you think that was the case?

Chinese born in the 1980s have some knowledge of the Cultural Revolution, but those born in the 1990s and after generally have little knowledge and interest in it. I think that’s unfortunate. We should remember what has occurred in China. This is why I wrote this book and why writers of my generation keep writing these stories. We want to make great literature out of this [history]. The Cultural Revolution lasted ten years and turned many lives upside down. We have to accept it as part of modern Chinese history.

How did you deal with such ignorance when planning your book?

Any novel that addresses human nature in extreme situations is universally interesting to readers. I remember when we were in China [decades ago], we were introduced to Soviet-era writers such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Boris Pasternak, especially the latter’s novel Doctor Zhivago. We were thrilled to read works by authors who shared life experiences and internal psychological experiences with us. As long as you write a story with enough literary elements — character development, depth of emotion, psychological buildup, internal examination — the story can have universal appeal.

The film version avoids the harsh realities of Lu Yanshi’s time in prison and in a reform-through-labor camp. Why do you think Zhang Yimou left those parts out? 

Zhang Yimou was more interested in the latter part [of the novel], the coming home part. He was fascinated with Lu Yanshi’s efforts to revive his wife’s memory. Considering film censorship in China, he was also limited in his choices and had to make a movie based on the latter half of my novel. In the movie, Zhang makes us realize that some memories have been filtered out and helps us imagine what those memories might be. We imagine how [his wife] entered this state of forgetfulness, what their life must have been like together and what kind of love they shared.

zhaximeiduo.zhoumi

How did you research labor camp life?

In China, I think many people have experience with or know about the reform-through-labor system that was recently abolished. I did research on the topic and talked to former inmates. An older man I regard as a beloved grandpa told me stories of his time in a labor camp in Qinghai Province, and they inspired me. I heard these stories more than 20 years ago. Before I started writing the novel, I traveled to where the prison had been. Although parts of it are already in ruins, most of it was still there. I talked to former guards and their adult children. This way, I was able to learn the story from both sides.

In your earlier books, you used a female point of view to examine the heroine’s destiny. This time, you used a male character. Why the change?

I am generally interested in women’s lives, as I am a woman and have many female friends who tell me stories about themselves or stories they have heard or witnessed. But that does not mean I cannot write from a male character’s viewpoint. I write a character in whatever gender is necessary for the story.

You wrote the screenplays for the film version of your books Siao Yu and Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl. Which do you prefer writing—screenplays or books?  

I have written many scripts, some better than others, but I don’t love the job. I love the freedom of writing novels, the ability to work alone, think alone and make the whole production of a novel alone. I love this freedom and this power.

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/07/07/writing-china-yan-geling-the-criminal-lu-yanshi/

Posted in Yan Geling | Tagged coming home, Peony Literary Agency, Peony News, Wall Street Journal, yan, yan gelling

Jang Jin Sung and Shirley Lee, New Focus

The sources in North Korea that provided us with details of events leading up to Jang Song-thaek’s purge in November 2013 have now given us information that provides crucial insight into the events leading up to his execution and the current configuration of power in the nation.

It has been revealed that in early 2013, Jang Song-thaek dispatched a letter to the Chinese leadership, explaining that he desired to instigate changes to the North Korean system such that its pivot of power would move away from the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) and towards the DPRK government, as overseen by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

This letter and its contents is said to have served as the decisive evidence that led to the removal of Jang Song-thaek from his post in the enlarged Politburo meeting, called by the KWP Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD) in early December of last year.

In the course of the four days of investigations and interrogations by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) that followed, details regarding the intent behind the dispatch, the date and method of its initial delivery, and Jang Song-thaek’s subsequent confidential exchanges with China are said to have been established.

Moreover, the judgement that Jang Song-thaek committed “anti-Party and anti-revolutionary acts” is said to have been passed on the basis of his intent to serve as the Prime Minister of the DPRK government. He was consequently sent for immediate execution.

The proceedings of the Ministry of State Security investigation were circulated among those who attended the enlarged Politburo meeting that removed Jang Song-thaek from his post.

Jang Song-thaek’s letter, the contents of which were disclosed in the enlarged Politburo meeting, reportedly claimed that ‘The greatest achievement of Comrade Kim Il-sung was that he established and developed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into a nation more wealthy and powerful than southern Chosun [South Korea]’.

The letter reasoned that ‘Comrade Kim Il-sung ruled through a government overseen by the Prime Minister and Cabinet in order to develop the nation’s light industry and agriculture, while maintaining the military industry as top priority’. It went on to assert that ‘In our current Party-pivoted system, the structures of the state are organised in such a way that everything must work at a lower priority than the Party’s ideological efforts.’

At the founding and in the early days of North Korea, the KWP was more akin to a “regional branch” that received absolute guidance and supervision from the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of the Soviet Union. During those years, the Cabinet and government was the main power, with Kim Il-sung’s associates in key government positions; but following Kim Jong-il’s rise to power through the Party since the 80s, the country has functioned as a KWP-pivoted system.

In the statement of the enlarged Politburo meeting, it was concluded that Jang Song-thaek’s intent had been to challenge Kim Jong-un’s rule by means of his plan to become Prime Minister; in the letter, Jang Song-thaek had explained that he wanted to develop the North Korean economy using the Cabinet and government as a pivot, in order to stabilise Kim Jong-un’s rule and maintain the current regime.

Jang Song-thaek had stated that his intention was to improve the independent strength and sustainability of the current regime through economic reforms, within the status quo of a division between north and south; and not to pursue unification that would lead to absorption by a foreign democracy.

He expressed the calculation and confidence that ultimately, this vision of north-south competition and co-existence would be well received by the Chinese leadership; therefore, Jang Song-thaek had asserted, Kim Jong-un himself had given permission for him to compose this letter in confidence.

The ‘Jang Song-thaek letter initiative’ said to have been approved by Kim Jong-un, and the details of the MSS investigation that were subsequently circulated, have already leaked beyond the participants of the enlarged Politburo meeting, with knowledge of it now established among most cadres belonging to the central institutions.

Pak Pong-ju speaking at the enlarged Poliburo meeting.

The reason why Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju spoke in tears in the enlarged Politburo meeting is said to have been in direct response to the description in Jang Song-thaek’s letter of a ‘Cabinet and government that has been stripped of power’. Pak expounded the view that under the great guidance of the KWP, his Cabinet and government had in fact been able to thrive victoriously. Pak’s voice reportedly broke with emotion as he provided his statement justifying the centrality of the KWP over the Cabinet and government.

KWP’s secretary for Propaganda and Agitation Kim Ki-nam, who spoke from the same platform, provided explanations of how the very history of the KWP was the history of the great Supreme Leader himself; Ri Man-keon, KWP secretary for North Pyongan Province, testified that Jang Song-thaek had tried to hand over Sinuiju to China as a development zone.

Kim Ki-nam speaking at the enlarged Politburo meeting.

Subsequently, on the orders of deputy director Cho Yeon-jun of the OGD, which had called the enlarged Politburo meeting, MSS guards who had been on standby were called and Jang Song-thaek was dragged away from the meeting hall.

Cho Yeon-jun speaking at the enlarged Politburo meeting.

Jang Song-thaek’s repeated assertion during the MSS investigation process – that the contents of the letter had not only had the approval of Kim Jong-un himself but his active support – was established as an even graver problem, and led to his immediate execution after just four days.

The scale and significance of this incident is perceived to be so great among cadres with membership in the central institutions that it is being referred to as the second “Hague emissary incident”.

In 1907, at the International Peace Conference held in The Hague, Kojong of Korea’s Chosun Dynasty had sent an emissary to assert that the Eulsa Treaty (Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty of 1905) was not valid. North Korea maintains that emissary Yi Jun committed suicide by disembowelment, protesting how the conference maintained silence regarding Japan’s invasion of Korea.

At present, the Ministry of State Security is conducting an extensive investigation, in order to establish who is responsible for leaking details that should have been restricted to those who attended the enlarged Politburo meeting. But it is thought that it is only a matter of time before the full account reaches the larger North Korean populace.

According to sources in situ, if it gets to the point where the news reaches the ordinary populace, ‘The number of people who sympathise with Jang Song-thaek because he attempted economic reform may increase’; moreover, ‘Feelings of disdain will likely grow regarding a Kim Jong-un who had supported the initiative, yet abandoned his uncle when the man was faced with purging and execution.’

In the statement issued by the MSS special military tribunal and published by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA on 13 December 2013, it was reported that ‘Jang Song-thaek had intended to concentrate his department and all relevant economic institutions into the Cabinet and government, serving as Prime Minister once the economy has crumbled into ruin and the state is on the verge of collapse.’

It was also claimed that Jang Song-thaek’s plan had been to seize control over the military to bring about a coup; and after the establishment of a new administration, he would have sought legitimacy for the coup by appealing to foreign powers and for international recognition.

 

http://newfocusintl.com/exclusive-jang-song-thaek-executed-followinghis-letter-chinese-leadership/

Posted in Jang Jin-Sung, Uncategorized | Tagged dear leader, Jang, Jang Jin, Jang Jin-Sung, Peony, Peony Literary Agency, Peony News, press, word, Word Press

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver by Chan Koonchung, Pen

What’s the story behind the romance and propaganda surrounding Tibet? Chinese author Chan Koonchung writes for PEN Atlas on how his new novel and its Tibetan protagonist are an attempt to humanise the conflict, using fiction to transcend ideology

The main protagonist of my new novel, Champa, is a young, modern, Chinese-speaking Tibetan man. He grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The novel in this sense is about Tibetan and Han relationships, but it will defy easy stereotyping. It is one of the intentions of the novel to be as uncompromisingly realistic and anti-romantic as possible. 

Aside from the Han Chinese, the only Chinese ethnic group that I have some familiarity with is the Tibetans. I knew very little about Tibet until 1989, when I was commissioned by an American company to produce a movie based on the life of the 13th Dalai Lama and an Englishman called Charles Bell. The movie never got to production stage, but during pre-production, I met my Buddhist teacher Dzongsar Rinpoche, and that led me to visit different diasporic Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Europe and North America. Since 1992 I also started visiting Lhasa and other Tibetan areas in China and over the years developed friendships with Tibetans in Lhasa and Beijing. I always wanted to write about Tibet and the Tibetan-Han relationship – a poignant and sometimes difficult co-dependent relationship seldom reflected realistically in literature.

My last novel, The Fat Years, was a dystopian political novel about present-day China, a genre that allows discussion of big issues. But I didn’t touch the ethnic issue in China at all in The Fat Years, because I wanted to save it for another novel. Right after I finishedThe Fat Years, I started working on a saga entitled The Conformist. It was about an idealist-turned-cynic Han Chinese cadre stationed in Tibet for 30 years who witnessed all the vicissitudes of relationships there.

I dropped The Conformist and by 2012, I started to work on a new story, Luo Ming or ‘Naked Life’, renamed for its English edition as The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. The year 2012 was difficult for Tibetans in China, and I wanted a raw and pungent way to express my feelings, and the main protagonist needed to be a Tibetan.

Champa, the main protagonist, has two very different but equally bumpy relationships with Han women (over 90% of Chinese are Hans; Tibetans belong to one of the 55 official minority groups in China). He was a tourist driver before he became the ‘kept man’ of an attractive, affluent middle-aged Han businesswoman in Lhasa. Life was good for Champa until he fell for an enigmatic young woman, an event which made him give up on his cushy Lhasa life and drive to Beijing, his dream city. Nothing in Beijing turned out as expected.

I intended to capture at least a fraction of the complicated relationships between the Han Chinese and Tibetans and cut across five kinds of stereotypes when it comes to Tibet and Tibetans:

The romantic stereotype –Tibet as Shangri La, an exotic, timeless touristy region of simple, peaceful folks.

The spiritual stereotype – Tibet as the spiritual Buddhist holy land. Tibetan Buddhist gurus have many followers in other parts of China.

The patronising stereotype – Tibet is pre-modern, China is modern. The Communist Party liberated Tibet from medieval backwardness. Tibet depends on aid from the Chinese state. China’s affirmative action policies are beneficial to the Tibetans, maybe too generously so.

The statist stereotype – Tibet has always been a part of China from time immemorial. Foreign imperialists are always there trying to encourage Tibetan separatists to divide the Chinese motherland.

The victim stereotype – Tibetan culture is under threat, all because of the Chinese rule: non-Tibetan migrants, ‘Han-ification’, assimilation policies, bureaucratic nepotism and state violence. But traditional culture is also changing inside Tibet because many Tibetans want modernisation and welcome economic growth. Many Tibetan families urge their children to learn Chinese and young Tibetans love hybridised popular culture. (Though, of course, I am not unsympathetic to this victim stereotyping because Tibetans are now indeed a minority culture under stress.)

It was one of my wishes to write a novel that defies and examines stereotyping about Tibet, Tibetans and Tibetan-Han relationship and I hope that through Champa and his complicated adventures, I managed to shed some light on this difficult issue.

About the author

Chan Koonchung was born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong. He was a reporter at an English newspaper in Hong Kong before he founded the influential magazine ‘City’ in 1976, where he was the chief editor and then publisher for 23 years. He is also a screenwriter and film producer of both Chinese and English-language films. Chung is a co-founder of the Hong Kong environmental group Green Power and was a board member of Greenpeace International from 2008 to 2011. He recently founded the NGO, Minjian International, which connects Chinese public intellectuals with their counterparts in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. His google account is often blocked. He is fluent in English, and now lives in Beijing. Chan Koonchung’s novelThe Fat Years, set in a China of the near-future where a dark moment of history has been erased from public memory, has never been published on the mainland. The book released in 2009 presents a dystopian vision of 2013 in which China’s rise coincides with the economic weakening of the West.  The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver has just been published in the UK by Doubleday.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa is translated by Nicky Harman.

 

http://www.englishpen.org/the-five-stereotypes-of-tibet/

Posted in Chan Koonchung | Tagged Chan, Chan koon, Chan Koonchung, English Pen, koonching, Pen, Peony, Peony Literary Agency, Peony News, The Fat Years
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