【Review】| Do We Know?
Time: November 24, Saturday, 13:00-14:30
Venue: Yan Ji You
Theme:They Know Not What They Do
Writers: Jussi Valtonen (Finland)
Moderator: Zhang Hong (China)
On November 24, the 3rd EU-China International Literary Festival Shenzhen event was held in Yan Ji You bookstore in the afternoon. Finland writer Jussi Valtonen and the moderator Zhang Hong started a heated discussion. AS a writer, editor and curator herself, Zhang Hong spread the discussing topics layer by layer and presented a thorough and in depth conversation. Their words covered Jussi’s new book and some of the key themes in it such as family relationships, the development of technology and beliefs and hype about the brain. During the workshop, there were clashes and splashes of thoughts and they agreed with each other a lot.
Our guest Jussi Valtonen is an author from Helsinki, Finland and now lives in New York, America. He is also a psychologist and studied neurotic psychology in the United States. His latest novel “ They Know Not What They Do” was a bestseller in his native country and was awarded the Finlandia Prize, the nation’s highest profile literary award. The book was being sold in many regions and countries in 10 versions of its translated work. Also in China, it will be published by China International Radio Press in no time.
Jussi came from Finland but live in the US now. When he first came to America, he felt some similarity. Not much difference actually. For example,they share the same language. But after he came back to Finland from America, he felt great differences. First of all, the population. US has much more population than Finland. He also said: “In Finland, what I missed most is that the US has so much communication and so much perspectives.” As a writer from North Europe,he also felt the difference in education.
Mentioning the difference between the two regions, especially the cultural difference, it was also showed in his latest work “They Know Not What They Do”. The main character Joe from Finland married American women Alina. He thought it would be easy. But later he felt the difference. Here brought the moderator’s next topic: we usually compare culture between Asia and the western world. But we always think the US as a representative of the West. Yet actually, the culture among countries in the west are not the same to begin with. Jussi agreed this idea. He said, just like himself, when people with various nationalities came to live in the US together, they feel the same. But back to their homeland nation, they feel different originated from different culture background. Just like in China, through different regions, its not the same as well. People all have their own culture and customs.
Back to his novel, moderator Zhang Hong read some extract last night. She felt the novel had some insight about humanity. Jussi said: “I like express humanity, because that makes me a good writer.” When we read literature, what’s most important thing? What do we expect the most? First, a clear theme and the uniqueness about the writer. And among all these, the perspective and illustration of humanity is the support. Skills and techniques come second. That is also why in the novel, there was not so much techniques. It was more about the character itself. The whole story felt natural and complete.
In the story, the main character is a neuroscientist. Jussi himself studied that field too. So what is neuropsychology then? Jussi said, studying about neurotic and psychology is studying about how the brain affect our knowledge. It’s an interesting topic. But till now, we don’t have much study on it. Brain is a very complex organ. It’s hard to acknowledge humanity objectively. Emotion is subjective. The idea is also conveyed in his book.
Nowadays, AI( Artificial Intelligence) technology is developing rapidly. There are even some cutting edge technologies that can imitate people’s emotion and capture their brain activity. Yet the last warning from the world-renowned scientist Stephen William Hawking was: AI will destroy human. Indeed, with technology and information pouring towards us, human being is still adapting. We may not fully understand the real change it brought us yet. Messages, emails and social media like Wechat in China, are seemingly bringing people together. Yet it also polarize us. The distance between us is even further. Thus, author Jussi is being cautious about the soaring development in technology.
In the end, we went back to literature. “Techniques are important, but what is more precious is using the skills to render better literature. Good literature should be dangerous and exciting. Be hard to anticipate and be there the surprise.” Jussi’s words are worth pondering.