The Inaugural EU-China International Literary Festival
Break the Mold: Diversity of Form in Writing
Chengdu Bookworm, November 25, 4:30pm
Wang Guoping (China), Lu Yiping (China), Guy Helminger (Luxembourg), Zuzana Kepplova (Slovakia), Isabelle Wery (Belgium)
Article by Zhenming Tian
For writers, hope remains in the notion that authorship is always taking form or about to take place in different forms of expression. To invent structures and styles in service of literary occasions is, to some, the penetration of the self, while to others, the making of life. To the extent that writers adjust their language moving from poetry to non-fiction, a play script reveals just as much nuance of the human emotion as does a novel while serving different functions, remarked panelists at the EU-China International Literary Festival. As suggested by the topic of discussion—Break the Mold, Diversity of Form in Writing—these invited authors continue to emerge in the varying forms of their writing, in which readers find their own views at once attacked and redeemed.
How do writers compose for the reader who, in return, is expected to find their unique voice in the written texts? Guy Helminger suggested that the answer lies in the functions served by different genres of writing: “poetry, for instance, is to me of an experimental purpose by putting together words that don’t belong; nor does poetry have to give an immediate message, it leads over and beyond the translatable. Plays usually contain political themes, which beckon discussions. Novels, on the other hand, narrate the wholeness of life, a particular character, or a parallel world for readers to contemplate the ones in which they inhabit.”
While the world aspires to be confirmed, understood, and cherished by being present in the consciousness of its inhabitants, for Lu Yiping, fiction is by itself an end in literature. “To understand life by looking at the invisible and the gone is to fictionalize the actuality as we experience it. While classic literature oftentimes aims to capture the epic, the noble, the arms and courage of the heroic, I hope to uncover the overlooked and their particular set of experiences that need to be known by more,” Lu claimed. For him, not only must writing dedicate itself to the descriptive word, but the author also needs to strive for an individualistic view within the collective, or in his words, “the daoyi (moral principles) of the literary man in a larger cultural tradition.”
This maturation of different writing forms appears to Zuzana Kepplova a response to the solicitation of real, lived human experiences, ranging from Syrian refugees crossing the border of Europe to African migrants seeking asylum in the north of Italy, risking the nonacceptance of host countries and the whims of history. While Helminger considers writing an intellectual process, through which the ideas of love and table are because of the ways they are materialized and transported, Kepplova’s writing dreams of a way to conceptualize thinking for the underrepresented people. For her, “the text is no more once it is produced. Characters in my stories don’t profit from individual portraits. Rather, their voices are reduced to an essence, resembling in nature the distillation of liquids.” Instead of staying loyal to monologues of the individual character, the Slovakian journalist strives to enable a transfer of lines between different personages, assemble their voices, and bend her imagination to fit into a larger, fictional narrative.
The “noble mission of writing must not be degraded” to the task of a full-time profession, insisted Kepplova, but should rather assume the form of grant-based projects that confirm more closely with its spontaneous nature. Indeed, as pointed out by Lu, the commercialization of literary creation in the information age has led to disconcerting effects, exemplified by the deteriorating health of several online writers in Shanghai who, as their income is commensurate with the amount of readership kept alive by the speed of creation, bear the task of producing more than tens and thousands of words a day. While Helminger professed that a life devoted to writing is infinitely more productive and happier, Kepplova jokingly proposed that perhaps a return to the monastery of the middle ages could bring light to our situation in the 21st century.