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'Where there's darkness there's literature': Chen Xiwo Q&A and Book Club

Talking Translation
The Publisher's View

Well, we've officially launched our project, and we've been absolutely delighted by the response, both to our call to join the Writing Chinese network, and to our first event!

Chen Xiwo's visit to Leeds, along with his translator Nicky Harman and publisher Harvey Thomlinson, provided a fantastic start to Writing Chinese. We were especially pleased that Nicky, who has done a huge amount to help us with getting the project set up, could be here to talk about her work!

The narratives in The Book of Sins involve voyeurism, pain, violence and incest, yet they are also, as Nicky points out, very moral stories, and there is tenderness there, as well as violence. The transgressions they depict are never gratuitous, but charged instead with political and social meaning. They are also shot through with a strain of pitch black humour, something which spilled over into Chen's entertaining Q&A!

From the very first question, 'Where does this darkness come from?', we plunged in to a discussion of censorship, sexuality, politics, writing and knives. When asked about his experiences of living in China, and the censorship his work has undergone, Chen remarked that, 'Where there's darkness, there's literature'. Despite the difficulties, despite the fact that writers have more freedom to write elsewhere, Chen insisted that living in China is vital to his work, and our audience was fascinated to hear about his experiences.

So thank you to everyone who came to the event, and for all your questions! We'd also like to say thank you to our wonderful interpreter Feng Lin, who did an absolutely great job. And if you weren't able to come in person, you can take a look at a video excerpt from the reading and some of the questions.

We also held our first book club meeting yesterday, in Costa Coffee in Blackwell's Bookshop, to discuss 'The Man With the Knife'. Tea was enjoyed, arguments were had (politely, of course), and we very much enjoyed delving in to the disturbing but often very funny depths of the story. So please do let us know your thoughts and questions.

But don't say you weren't warned...