By Mylin Batipps
Award-winning and renowned Chinese author Yan Ge shared some of her works of contemporary Chinese literature with the College last Tuesday, April 9 in the Library Auditorium.
Born in the Sichuan Province of China, Yan Ge has been writing since the age of 10. She is now 11 books deep into her writing career, and she is the recipient of many international awards. People’s Literature magazine, a popular Chinese magazine, recently selected Yan Ge as one of China’s 20 future literary masters.
Her early works attracted teenagers with her storytelling of gods, ghosts and wonders of Chinese myth. Now, her works focus on the concept of Chinese female writing. She mentioned that in the 1970s, female writing gained wide commercial success in China.
“You had to be beautiful for a female writer,” Yan Ge said.
Being a female writer was tough for Yan Ge at first, though, because at the time China’s tolerance for female writers was low. She said that at the age of 17, she published her first book but did not want her photo in the book. Nonetheless, she said, her face was shown on the cover and inside of her books.
“First stepping into the world of literature publication, I realized that it’s impossible to stay faceless,” Yan Ge said. “There’s no denial of being female.”
She has learned to embrace that today. Yan Ge explained that being a female writer is “privileged” and that she looks to get the Chinese culture to accept female writers again like in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I want to move the female identity backwards, or to eventually put it in brackets,” she said.
Yan Ge shared two excerpts, the first being from a story about changing her name from Yan Duixing to Yan Ge (meaning “color and sound”), and how her grandmother preferred her original name. The second excerpt was from her latest novel, published in 2012, called “The Family of Duan.” In this story, a man stops everything that he does while working as a factory owner to respond to his mother’s frequent phone calls.
Both excerpts were read in Chinese first, and then various audience members volunteered to read parts of the excerpts in English. Yan Ge explained that she has both Dutch and English translations of her work.
When asked how she learned English, Yan Ge explained that in her free time she watches sitcoms and reads a lot of English literature.
“I am a big fan of Jonathan Franzen,” she said. “I also read a lot of William Faulkner.”
Yan Ge is currently a visiting scholar of Duke University and is working on her doctoral degree in comparative literature at Sichuan University.