Assessing the World Through a Prism of Light
By Bob Abor
Writers are inspired by the world around them and engage in a range of creative processes to publish stories that challenge readers to look scenarios and people in a different light. Czech novelist Radka Trestikova, Bulgarian prolific poet Keti Bozokuva and award winning Chinese writer Wen Zhen discussed storytelling through their own creative prisms on the closing day of the 4th EU-China International Literary Festival at Bookworm Sanlitun branch, Beijing. Radka, a lawyer-turned poet, says she started writing when she was expecting her first child. “Writing was not my childhood dream. It was by coincidence,” she recalls. She acknowledges that she writes from her heart and that is why she loves it so much. Keti Bozokuva, also a lawyer who worked as a public prosecutor, says she writes stories from her experiences during travels to different parts of the world. Their Chinese counterpart Wen Zhen, who is participating in this literary festival for the second time, says she is delighted to learn from the famed poets because she is interested in poetry. Going back to her first book published in 2014 entitled You Deserve It, Radka believes that she was more naive in her thoughts and opinions. By then she was scared to talk as a woman. Now she is glad that she can speak as a woman, as reflected in four of her other books. Keti, who has so far published 16 collections of poetry and one prose title, says poem has been with her for all her life and she enjoys it. She believes that it is more important that the person who reads her books feels it personally. Wen Zhen too had wanted to pursue law in order to engage more with the community. She then majored in finance after failing to be admitted for her dream course. Wen Zhen believes this taught her positive lessons. She started to write and discovered that literature is a much more interesting way to know more about humanity.
Radka published a book entitled Going Back to My Roots because she had family secrets that she wanted people should know. For instance, her dad passed on five years ago. Such an emotional experience, Radka says, can distinctively be told in a book form.
In her famous book called Love Story of Anxiang Road, Wen Zhen said it is interesting to readers because it expresses something while at the same time hiding some information.
Today translation is another creative way of storytelling to heterogeneous audiences. Authors whose books are translated into popular languages tend to change the minds set of audiences globally. Are these authors thinking about translating their works in many languages?
Although her books have been translated into Bulgarian, Italian and English, Keti is looking forward to have her work translated into Chinese as well because it is a big market in Asia. As for Wen Zhen, her work has been translated into Japanese and a few in English for foreign audience. She, however, noted that European readers prefer longer stories. She plans start writing long stories although she acknowledges that it has a different approach and takes much time to publish.
Adaptation of books into film is another dimension of creativity in storytelling. Radka wrote a movie screenplay known as What Men Want and it became a hit Czech movie in cinemas. The success of this project inspired her to translate her famous book entitled Babovky into a movie. Although the screen play of this book is set to be released next year, she believes that adding new ingredients like action, space, display of emotions, exciting locations and editing will tell the story from a different perspective.
Authors are influenced by fellow writers. Are there authors who have long lasting impact in their work?
Radka acknowledges that in Czech Republic people read a lot so as to get innovative ideas. Her work borrows a lot from Elena Ferrante, a popular Italian novelist. Elena, she says, is a treasure in literature for someone who loves fiction.
Keti Bozokuva takes inspiration from reading poetry. Her work is shaped by Salvador Dali, a famed Spanish artist.
Zhen, winner of the 2014 Lao She Literature Award, reads varieties of books, including classics. Her work is greatly influenced by fellow Chinese authors Hong Lou Meng, Cao Xue Qin and Jin Ping Mei.
Looking back at their initial work, do author’s feelings change overtime?
Radka says her feeling remains same since she just writes for her heart. “I don’t think I can change my writing. I do not write for money, it is my hobby,” she explains. She adds that if writng for money starts coming in my mind, then she will quit writing. It is the same thing, according to Keti. Writing just happens when she walks down the street and at time she wakes up at night with a poem.
How are the authors connecting with today’s topics?
Wen Zhen works on one topic at a time, trying to re-create and make it better. “Every one of us has pride and prejudice in writing. We’re are not overly wise but we write from our own experience,” she noted. Like in the previous session, Radka Trestikova emphasized that it is important for authors not to write if they do not want to tell the truth. “I want to connect with readers thorough emotions and build a bridge between me and readers,” she explained. Keti also repeated that she bases her work on experience as opposed to topics.
Being the final day, participants applauded the authors and organizers for the inspiring discussions and staging a successful festival respectively. They are already looking forward to participate in next year’s event.