March 11, 2008 / 11:56 AM / 12 years ago

Writer Geling Yan worries about "materialistic" China

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Chinese writer Geling Yan, considered one of China’s leading literary exports, says she’s disillusioned by China’s rampant modernization, the contaminated souls of urban women and inhuman commercialization.

Yan’s novel “The Uninvited” — a satirical take on the ills of capitalist China from corruption to media propaganda, was recently published by Faber & Faber.

The 49-year-old Shanghai native and author of eight novels, spoke to Reuters in Hong Kong during the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival.

Q: How do you see China’s breakneck economic and social convulsions?

A: Nothing you can see is truly authentically Chinese anymore. Everything. That’s why I go to the countryside. You see the real China is there. They overdo it, it’s commercialized. This materialistic stuff, it’s getting to China and this is the only god they believe in it.

Q: How does that make you feel and what can you do about it?

A: It’s just bad taste, you have to tolerate it. I traveled in the countryside of China so I know where to go if I’m totally disgusted by this globalization. Everywhere you see the same thing, the glassy buildings everywhere, it’s so inhuman.

Q: You seem drawn to the lives of rural Chinese women in your literature. Why?

A: It’s an amazing life, they’re the most strong lives. Men: they always make wars and famines and political disasters and these keep happening in China. These women are left to take care of everything after all the destruction so these women are real saviors to me. They look like they are in shackles, but in heart they’re so free because they’re free of all these concepts made by man. We suffer most from our concepts, all these ideologies, raging war because of all these abstract ideas.

Q: How would you contrast urban and rural Chinese women?

A: Urban women are contaminated by ideas and concepts. We live by so many concepts. They’re so calculating, when they see a man then their concepts start to work, how does this man fit into their ideas and what ideas to use to get them. In the countryside though, in old times, women were married to their men by arranged marriage. But in the end you talk to them and find they’re so free. They enjoy their sexual life, they really have such a sexual drive you won’t believe it. They have lovers, they are very free.

Q: Do you think China deserves the cultural attention its artists are getting in the West or is much of it about money?

A: I think the best Chinese literature was in the 1990s and back then the writers didn’t get fully recognized. Now it’s about things like the Olympics and the economy, so I think it deserves all the attention but not blindly.

Reporting by James Pomfret

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