Report on the 4th EU-CHINA INTERNATIONAL LITERARY FESTIVAL
Held at Qi Hao/Genesis.
Authors: Zane Zusta, Zhu Wenying
Topic: Literature, A Spotlight on Society’s Soul
Time: 15:00 – 16:30pm
Literature has over the years reflected the depths of a society, penned down through the artistic inspirations of authors who by their unrestricted creativity build through words literary edifices that serve different generations with history, pleasure and societal values. The central theme of this event was to shed light on the permeation of literature on a society’s most central part – its soul. Children’s book author, Zane Zusta from Latvia and Chinese book author, Zhu Wenying shared their thoughts throughout this session on this very intriguing topic.
Host of the session, Zhe Ming welcomed the panel and enquired about Zane Zusta’s impression of China so far. She said Beijing had opened their arms with a delightful warmth towards her. She could not hide how grateful she was to the people of Beijing for their keen hospitality and immense politeness shown towards her during her trip. She mentioned that Beijing obviously was different from Latvia in many ways, but she was awed by the reception so far.
Author, Zhu Wenying said Beijing’s strong winds had already led to the cancelling of a food festival that was to be held that day. She said different parts of China had different vibes to them, but each part carried its own unique presence and presented both citizens and visitors something to ponder on, more especially with authors.
As a writer of children’s books as well as books for adults, one of Zane’s books has been published in China. Her book for adults was written considering themes on weight, being pretty and accepting to live a normal life, filled with deep appreciation for who people authentically are. Zhu Wenying said in writing, we need to travel from our comfort zones. It takes conscious effort for a writer to go beyond what they are daily faced with to challenge themselves in order to create literature that resonates sufficiently with the society. She gave the scenario of an artifact she saw in Ireland where she mentioned one quote that resonated deeply with her. It said, “Dear Lord, our boat is so small, but Your ocean is so vast”. She said such experiences poke an author’s creativity and spark the power to create powerful and engaging texts. Zane also mentioned that authors do face challenges and troubles that also churn out their creative juices We face troubles and that’s how you see interpret.
Keen to know if authors who write for both children and adults are consistently faced with the battle of finding a balance with the two worlds, host for the day asked Zane Zusta if she ever portrayed the cruelty of the world in her children’s books. For Zane, her current writing she said was to pamper the children and thus she treats them to adventures that engage their creative minds. She also consciously creates a ‘knowledge part’ in her books that create spaces for children to develop their knowledge about certain areas of life. Her books feature activities aimed at helping children find their way when they get lost as well as helping children think outside the box.
Author Zhu Wenying repeatedly expressed the role of interaction and building relationships with other authors. She had extensively interacted with several authors who came from various parts of the world. She juxtaposed the Western society to the Chinese society when it comes to dialogue. She said Western societies are mostly direct in their conversations, but Chinese express themselves in different ways. To her, writing and literature is like the air, we cannot touch it, but we feel it, and such deep dialogues affect her writing.
Both authors being female, the host asked about their society’s female populace. Zane described Latvian women as very strong successful women. She said that a large percentage of Latvian women were bosses who owned their own business. However, she mentioned that some women want to portray strength, so they keep most things to themselves. Her book was to address this phenomenon by creating a story where women could be happy with themselves.
Zhe Wenying also said it was quite difficult to place one character to Chinese women. She said China had a large populace and each jurisdiction women had different values. She said if she wants to state any commonality, it would be the fact that they all see eye to eye. She says there is a lot of tolerance among cultures. Zhe Wenying said everyone has their energy field and sometimes the energy field. Literature could be a capitalization of the energy fields of different societies to create something powerful.
Zane Zusta’s background in journalism also made her more ready to share her passion with the world. She always had to go with what the editors had to say but she wanted to find her own free space and voice for writing. Author Zhe Wenying also said she used to be an international trade journalist.
Because when you are a journalist you have to do what the editor gives you and all the time she felt she had to say something and if she had to say something she had to write it and the stories of the universe provided her a platform to share the stories with other people.
Both authors discussed their inspirations for writing and how these inspirations were birthed from an original interaction with people and their participation in their society. Authorship they said, was also about taking risks and being pragmatic.
Attendants interacted with the two accomplished female authors and were generally satisfied with the turnout of the session.