Monocle

Monocle

The Flowers of War, Yan’s third novel to be published in English, comes out in January along with a film adaptation that China hopes can win the country’s first Oscar. She also scripted a Chinese version of Dangerous Liaisons, expected to premiere at Cannes. She lives in Berlin with her husband, a US diplomat.

“The film based on my novel is coming out and will be China’s submission for the Oscar for best foreign language film. The director is Zhang Yimou, he directed Raise the Red Lantern and the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony, and it stars Christian Bale. On set, Zhang kept wanting to change the English diaIogue so I’d often be up rewriting until 11:30 pm. I also wrote the script for a remake of Dangerous Liaisons by Korean director Heo Jin-ho and starring Zhang Ziyi. It’s set in Shanghai in the 1930s.

China will be in the spotlight at the 2012 London Book Fair. There are some very good books. Wang Anyi’s book Tianxiang (Scents of Heaven) is one of them. It’s set in Shanghai during the Ming Dynasty. It was just published and no one has translated it yet. It’s exquisite; the language is so good. But I don’t have much optimism about literature because people don’t have the patience for good literature.

In 2012, I’m looking forward to moving to a different country. I love Berlin but we will move to Belgium or some other country. We move every three years; it’s exciting the diplomatic life. I always look forward to the uncertainty.

Every different culture reminds me of Chinese culture. A person is not aware of their own culture until they draw a parallel with another. When I lived in Abuja, Nigeria, I saw misery everywhere and corrupt government. I passionately hated something. That passion reminded me of the misery in the countryside of China. I came up with a wonderful novella called The Ninth Widow and also stories about corruption such as The Uninvited. Never before had I found the creativity and passion to write that much, that well.”