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Dimitar Hristov x Wen Zhen: The Writer’s Life

At 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 6, 2020, the Fifth China-EU International Literary Festival held its 26th literary dialogue, in which Bulgarian writer Dimitar Hristov talked to Chinese writer Wen Zhen on the theme of  “The Writer’s Life “.


Dimitar Hristov is a Bulgarian poet, playwright and literary translator. He was born in 1957 in Blagoevgrad and grew up in Sofia where he graduated in Bulgarian philology and rhetoric from St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. He has worked for the Union of the Bulgarian Writers as a desk officer in charge of poetry-related issues, as chairman of the creative fund of the Union of the Bulgarian Writers, and editor-in chief of Bulgarian Writer Literary Newspaper. He created and presented the weekly Poetry Time TV show. He has worked as chief expert for the Ministry of Culture and was Director of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Skopje. At present, Dimitar Hristov is Director of the Union of the Bulgarian Writers. He has won a number of national and international literary awards. He is member of the Union of the Bulgarian Writers and of the Union of the Bulgarian Journalists.


Wen Zhen writes fiction, essays, and poetry. She studied for a master’s degree at the Chinese department of Peking University and has published short stories in literary journals including People’s Literature and Dangdai. Wen Zhen has published many fiction collections, such as Eleven Flavours of Love (which includes the novella for which she received a Lao She Literature Prize in 2014) and The Last Night We Were Together, and currently works at an editor at People’s Literature Publishing House. A selection of her poetry was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Pathlight.


Speaking about the writing habits of the two writers, Dimitar first expounds that as a person, he is very introverted, but his work and life require him to remain extroverted. “I think that a writer in the process of writing is always a process of looking inward and looking for inner feelings, but at the same time, I’m also looking for outside energy to attract readers.” Therefore, Dimitar thinks that writing is a process worth exploring all his life, which requires the writer to seek both outward and inward ways of communication. There will be many surprises and temptations along the way, and literature is a good medium to establish connections between people. “We are living in a world where there are many temptations, especially material ones. In this process, writers can not only inspire themselves, but also give readers a lot of courage.”


Wen Zhen said that she regarded writing novels as a very serious job. Besides writing novels, she also wrote poems and other issues. In her writing, she would keep reading a large number of books in other fields. For example, she majored in finance at the beginning. Therefore, she often read some industry literature such as investment reports and so on, so as to get a more comprehensive understanding of the world by absorbing the contents of different fields.


When talking about the style of writing, Wen Zhen mentioned that she had been troubled by her style. At a certain stage of her writing, she felt that her style was being guided and reshaped by some new thoughts and feelings. “I believe that a really good writer will constantly polish and adjust his writing style.” But writers are usually only responsible for their own state at a certain stage.


Dimitar agreed that “style should not be the brand of a writer”, and he said that many writers want to achieve a certain style, but some of their own things will drag him to his original style. “The world we live in is very rich, and every writer has a lot of choices.” Dimitar compares the writer’s choice of style to a person walking into a clothing store, but the most beautiful is not necessarily the most suitable for him. If he forcibly buys it, he will bury his original style. “The style most suitable for a writer is the style closest to his ID and self.” However, some writers choose a new writing style, which is actually prepared for the next generation. Therefore, we should not blindly comply with the trend or market driven, “we should believe that our hearts and feelings are above the market choice.”


The host invited two writers to talk about the matter of the subject. Wen Zhen believes that the subject matter is not the most constraining factor for creation, but the most important thing for a writer to write is his current understanding of himself and human heart. Dimitar pointed out that art should have different forms of expression, and writers should not be framed by forms. “Life should be diverse, not just poetry, movies or folklore. What matters is how we find the best way to express what we want to say.”


What is the life of a writer after their spare time? Dimitar believes that the writer is also an ordinary person, and his life is no different from that of ordinary people. They should be able to communicate with all the people they want to communicate with, and they should also be able to look at the world from the perspective of others. “He can not only play himself well, but also play all the characters in his writing.”


Wen Zhen admits that when she doesn’t write, she will cultivate some hobbies, such as calligraphy. In her daily life and travel, she will talk to different people extensively and try her best to play the roles of a wife, a daughter and a good friend. In addition, she also has three cats as the adjustment and enhancement of her life.


In the Q&A session, the two writers shared the music, painters or film creators they cared about and appreciated. Dimitar got to know many friends in the association of creators during his student time, who often exchanged and created works together. Wen Zhen also met many friends in the creative industry in public activities such as film exhibitions and concerts. She believes that word creators can also learn some “second-hand experience” from artistic works of different forms and open their own sensory world.


The China-EU International Literary Festival has been held for four times. During the annual exchanges, Chinese and European writers have conducted in-depth exchanges and discussions on various aspects of life and society, presenting a series of high-quality ideological collisions. At the 5th China-EU International Literary Festival, many outstanding Chinese writers and writers from 27 European Union member states will continue the literary dialogue between China and Europe.


At the end of the event, the two writers expressed their thanks to the organizers and maintainers of the China-EU International Literary Festival and wished that this literary journey could go further and further and help more readers appreciate the beauty of words.


By Xiao Yao

Translated into English by Helen Qiu