moderating Da Chen’s session at 1 pm on Saturday March 9, 2013

I was delighted and thrilled when Capital M asked if I’d moderate Da Chen’s session that is to take place during its international literature festival. I usually say yes to such request. It’s usually excellent fun and a good opportunity to get to know a fellow writer, let know a writer I admire and I am indebted to.

Before I started the writing of my memoir, I read a lot of China memoirs and I was particularly impressed and inspired by Chen’s colours of the Mountain, his own coming-of-the age story, for the story-telling, for the usage of Chinese idioms and sayings and for the beautifully crafted and often poetic prose.

Then he very kindly gave me a glowing endorsement to my memoir Socialism is Great! “A literary gem,” he says, “Zhang deftly crafts the journey of a whole generation, desperately yearning to break away from the ropes of tradition and living to dream the impossible. It’s a book to relish, a volume to cherish and mostly, a life to
celebrate.” This was arranged by my publisher. In any case, I was touched by his generosity.

Right now, I am reading Da Chen’s latest work My Last Empress, a historical novel about an American’s erotic journey into the 19th century’s China. Kirkus Review describes it as ‘Nabokov meets The Dream of Red Chamber”. Wow, I am so impressed. He has made a great leap forward since his first book, not to say the memoir isn’t great – in fact, it made to New York Times’ best selling list. In his first book, he often uses short, simple sentences. Here the sentences become more sophisticated, the metaphors and images richer. And the canvas is much larger. He struck me altogether as a much more confident and mature writer. I was gripped by the prologue. “I am old, decayed and fermented. I am a dead tree with rotten cavity within which grows a stem of flower – my last empress.” Bear in mind, English isn’t his native language.

I am sure that we’ll have plenty to talk about. We both to the same generation and belong to a small if growing number of the Chinese writers who write in English.

For the details, see below link.


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