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Drago Jančar x Yi Zhou: Time Past and Present: Ripples and Reflections


At 7:00 p.m. on November 22, Beijing time, the 13th activity of the 5th China-EU International Literary Festival was held as scheduled. Slovenian writer Drago Jančar and Chinese writer Yi Zhou launched a dialogue on the theme of “Ripples and Reflections “. Dai Weina hosted the event.


Slovenia’s most prominent author, Drago Jančar has been described as “the seismologist of a chaotic history”. Born in Maribor, Slovenia, 1948, he studied law, and has worked as journalist, editor and freelance writer. In l985, he stayed in the U.S.A. as a Fulbright fellow, and in l988 in Germany. His novels and short stories have been translated and published into many European languages and in the U.S.A., His dramas have also seen a number of foreign productions. In 2003 he was awarded the Herder Prize for literature. His many awards also include the Hemingway Prize (Lignano, Italy 2009), Le Prix Européen de Littérature (Strasbourg 2011, Prix du Meilleur livre étranger/Prize for the best foreign book – I Saw Her That Night) and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (Salzburg 2020).


Yi Zhou, formerly known as Zou Yizhou, was born in 1972 in Wuxi of Jiangsu province and now lives in Lanzhou of Gansu province. He began to publish novels in 2000 and joined the Chinese Writers Association in 2008. Many of his novels, novellas and short stories have been published in China’s major literary magazines and have been republished and then included in the literary annuals. His works can also be found in the annual ranking of best literature released by Chinese Fiction Institution and the list of the best latest contemporary Chinese literature. His works have reaped the award of the year by Selected Stories, the first prize of novellas and short stories of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Yellow River Literature Award and won the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Dunhuang Literary Award. He wrote novels such as The Lame, Tadpole, The War, The Spring and Autumn Period’s Regret and story collections such as Our Last Resort and All the Stories.


This dialogue closely follows the theme of the Fifth China-EU International Literary Festival “Recovery / Reflection”. In this talk, the two writers have deeply discussed the influence of historical events and personal experiences on literary creation. Drago Jančar said that although history and literature are different, historical background is the cornerstone of the construction of novel system. Yi Zhou thinks that history is equivalent to disaster, and he is in the stage of no disaster, but it does not prevent his literary creation from being associated with history. Because people are used to regard history as their religion, individual emotions are often limited by historical experience. So, although he describes ordinary real life, historical experience will also permeate in writing.


Dai Weina asked two writers how the epidemic had affected their writing and what would the future of literature be affected. Drago Jančar thought that the negative state brought by the epidemic was not new. He wrote a novel about the European plague, and literary creation can be integrated into people’s thinking about the epidemic. In his view, although it is impossible for people to find answers immediately in turbulent times, literary creation is a way to help people find answers. Yi Zhou felt that at the beginning of the epidemic, he has also experienced anxiety just like common people and he found that his cognition of Chinese had a certain degree of swing, such as what disaster and bravery meant. And this year, the newly published Gengzi Story Collection is also his own way of capturing their mentality changes, avoiding forgetting.


Then, both writers read the fragments of his works to the readers. Through his works, Drago Jančar tries to make readers understand that war can strip away a lot of things, and the only thing left is love. Yi Zhou read to the readers the fragments of the novel Sheep Crossing the Border in Gengzi Story Collection. This story tells the inner activities of a middle-aged man trapped at home during the epidemic. Dai Weina said the novels of the two writers broke the boundary between fiction and non-fiction and had a feeling of being opened and revived.


During the Q&A, some readers want to know what history means to them and what role does history play in their works.


According to Drago Jančar, history can be divided into two levels. The history in a microscopical way keeps adding up. However, human history depicts a way of life of human beings at present, which will not be changed easily. For example, people living in the 16th century and people living in modern times, the demand for love will not change much. Yi Zhou thinks that history, on the one hand, is like a conclusion, which is the basic premise for him to understand the world. On the other hand, when he writes, history is the object of his own questioning, hoping to regain the right to interpret and understand the world through creation. And these two seemingly conflicting historical aspects have become the driving force of their own writing.


The China-EU International Literary Festival has been held each yer since 2017. 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.