【Review】| Female Study in Proverbs Around the World
Time: November 25, Sunday, 13:00-14:30
Venue: Yan Ji You
Theme: What do we share?
Writers: Mineke Schipper (The Netherlands)
Moderator: Hu Chuanji (China)
The fourth event of The 3rd EU-China International Literary Festival was held during 13:00-14:30 on December 25 in Yan Ji You Bookstore, Guangzhou. In theme of “What Do We Share?”, the award-winning Dutch writer Mineke Schnipper and Professor Hu Chuanji were invited to discuss female character in worldwide proverbs.
胡传吉教授首先对Mineke Schnipper女士作简要介绍。Mineke Schnipper女士因卓越的学术研究、论文、小说等，蜚声中外。她的作品《别娶大脚女人：世界谚语中的女性》获2005年最佳非虚构小说Eureka奖。这部作品已被译成多国语言，新译本还在不断增加。此外，她的《裸体与穿衣：世界服饰史》及最新作品《权力与无力的演变史》研究自古以来，女性身体被渴求、赞美、利用及滥用的历程及原因。她有四本书被翻译成中文。目前，她是荷兰莱顿大学社会艺术中心的研究学者，同时是其跨文化文学研究的荣誉教授。
In the beginning, Professor Hu Chuanji from Sun Yat-sen University made a brief introduction to Mineke Schnipper. She is a multi-award-winning author of academic books, essays, and novels. For her internationally acclaimed non-fiction book Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from Around the World, she received the Eureka Award in 2005 for best non-fiction book. It has been translated all over the world and new translations continue to appear. Among her other books are Naked or Covered: A History of Dressing and Undressing Around the World, and her latest work A History of Power and Powerlessness, which considers how and why the female body has been desired, admired, used and abused since time immemorial. Four of her books has been translated into Chinese. She is a research scholar at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society and Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Literary Studies at the University of Leiden.
Mineke Schnipper shared her personal experience with the audience. She was born in a family with six children, five of whom were boys. Although she was the only daughter in her family, she didn’t find any inequality between her brother and herself. Instead, she realized that the desire and the fear were beyond gender. Therefore, the seed of equality sprouted in her mind.
She kept the curiosity of the world. She has learned French literature, Latin, philosophy, comparative literature and so on. Her first job was to teach and research in Congo, Africa where there was going through the civil war. it sounded messy, mysterious and even dangerous to her at that time. But the curiosity drove her to live in this unfamiliar land for the next six years.
When she started to analyze the African novels, she discovered the stereotype between African and European people – they both considered each other as lazy thieves. That was the first time she developed her interest in comparative literature. “If you only look into the differences, you will only find differences.”, said Mineke. Thus, she managed to look for the different way of creating literature in different areas and summarize the common points.
In the oral novels in Africa, she found out many proverbs, which raised her interest in collecting proverbs. Most of the proverbs were related to women, about their body, work, life, power and so on. “Men are eater while women are foods.” This one left her a great impression. So far, she has already collected 15,000 proverbs. “If you collect more, you’ll have more materials for analysis and study.” So she spent 10 years writing Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from Around the World. The process was full of obstacles. She wanted to give up for a thousand times, but she was reluctant to drop what she had done. Finally she made it and the book gained its reputation beyond her expectation. it has been translated with 18 languages and the translation will go on.
“Even if these proverbs are from different places that you might never hear of, they share a lot of common things, such as procreation, desire, fear, anxiety and something that could unite us.” She discovered that in the past, son preference was quite popular in many societies. As the saying goes, “Eighteen beautiful daughters are less precious than a limbed son.” The social status of females were lowering down after the matrilineal society. Women were considered as the property of men. Women were pushed inside home and outside the home is man’s field. This was the hierarchy in family.
胡传吉教授从Mineke Schnipper女士的一番话中受益匪浅。她将一个人的成长比喻成一棵树，最开始的扎根是最重要的。Mineke Schnipper女士在非洲待了六年，对于比较文学的研究而言，是个很好的起点。“读书和见识同样重要。成长一定要离开你的出生地，出去看一看，这样你的根才能长大长强长高。她从不同中得到相通性。”
Professor Hu Chuanji was deeply inspired by Mineke Schnipper’s experience and sharing. She compared the growth of a man to the growth of a tree. The beginning procedure is to take a root. Mineke Schnipper’s stay in African for six years took a root in her future study in comparative literature. “We need to have a mind of a wide scope. If you leave your birth place and travel to somewhere else, you can grow stronger.”
She mentioned another key word – identity. Mineke Schnipper started her study and writing based on the researches on different civilizations. She gradually developed the sense of identity. “The thinking mode from the perspective of identity must criticize in terms of the hierarchy in ancient society. In ancient society, the life of gate was hierarchy, while in modern society, the gate of life is identity.” Identity can help people with different civilizations find commons.
胡传吉教授向Mineke Schnipper女士问了一个有趣的问题：如果从男性的角度看这些谚语，把谚语里的女性变成男性会产生什么效果呢？Mineke Schnipper女士非常喜欢这个问题。她说她曾试过这么做，但会发现，这会导致男性产生失控的恐惧感。
Professor Hu Chuanji asked an interesting question – what if we read these proverbs from male perspective and turn the subjects into men in all of these proverbs. Mineke Schnipper appreciated this question. She said she had tried this advice. But she found it unworkable. “The reason of all this is the fear of losing control”.
最后，胡传吉教授鼓励台下的学生读者们说：“大学阶段要去寻找自己的天赋所在，让自己成长为一个强大的人。” Mineke Schnipper女士也同样用一句来自西藏的谚语鼓励大家：“一百个男性和一百个女性的美德塑造一个完美的人。”
Finally, Professor Hu Chuanji encouraged students by saying, “In college, you have to find your talent and become a powerful person.” Mineke Schnipper also quoted a Tibetan proverb that “a hundred male and a hundred female qualities make a perfect person.”