Yu Hua at Elliott Bay Book Co

Yu Hua was at Elliott Bay Book Co on March 1st. He is promoting his new book Brothers and is on a tour of the states. Since it is rare to have access to an author like him, especially since he doesn’t speak English, it was a treat to see him. He is a funny man even with an interpreter and has a good sense of the dark. He made a few comments that are of special interest.

  1. He picks his translators himself. Although he doesn’t speak English he looks for someone who knows the literature of the target language. He isn’t as interested in the Chinese scholars who only know about Chinese literature. He is more interested in having the readers be able to read the book, than a pure translation.
  2. Since he went to school during the Cultural Revolution his education was hindered. Therefore, when he began to write he only knew about 4000 characters. The lack of characters led to a sparse writing style. He said from a bad thing came a good thing.
  3. Like a good cook who  is made better by eating many different types of food; a writer who samples good writing will become better.
  4. He has been lucky to live in a land where changes that have taken place over the last 40 years in China, took 400 years to occur in Europe.
  5. His father was a surgeon whose surgery was in the same building as their house and the morgue was next to the bathroom. Occasionally, he would sleep in the morgue because it was cool. He can remember seeing his father covered in blood from surgeries. These memories informed his early works with violence. He also told a little joke wondering what made the trees near the house grow so well, the bathroom or the morgue.
  6. When Mao died he said the sound of 1000 people sobbing sounded ridiculous, not sad. He couldn’t keep from laughing. So he put his head down on the stool in front of him. He was shaking from the laughter so much that the teachers thought he was crying the hardest.