Chinese writer Yan Lianke, 61, came to South Korea for “2019 Dialogue with International Writers” organized by the Daesan Foundation and Kyobo Book Center. At a press conference on Tuesday, held at a restaurant in Seoul’s Jung District, the writer shared his personal views on Chinese society and literature.
He is one of the most renowned Chinese novelists of the time along with Mo Yen and Yu Hua, widely known for his works that shed light on the dark side of China’s remarkable economic development.
Amid escalating Hong Kong protests, he was bombarded with political questions even though he said he cannot speak on sensitive issues. “I had a chance to be at the anti-U.S. beef protest in Korea in 2008”, he said. “Both protests represent human efforts to achieve freedom and dignity. Every effort for this cause is noble, and, under no circumstances, is violence acceptable. Nothing is more important than human life.”
Asked about the role of China as a global economic power, he said he is not interested in it and asked to pay more attention to about 1.4 billion people living in China instead. “In China, even some intellectuals believe that English originated from Hunan or Jesus Christ was born in the north-east of China”, the novelist said indirectly criticizing Chinese society. “I can talk about this for four days and more. My novel is simpler than the reality.”
He sees himself as a “failed writer” and a “weak human,” far from the word “trouble” that is often used to describe him. He said this is because he is not satisfied with any of his works and only stated facts about China as opposed to criticizing it.
When asked about 2019 Nobel Prize winner Peter Handke who sparked controversy with his remarks on the Kosovo massacre, he said the laureate is different from Chinese authors, adding that authors are supposed to be involved and voice opinions, but Chinese writers keep silence. It is important getting involved.
Seol Lee firstname.lastname@example.org