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Why We Write

Why We Write

On the evening of May 23rd, under the theme of “Why We Write” , the eighth event in Shanghai of the 2rd EU-China International Literary Festival was held successfully at Yan Ji You(Raffles City Changning). Aleš Štege, José Luís Peixoto, Xiao Bai and Zou Zou attended the event.  Aleš Štege is a poet and prose writer from Slovenia, José Luís Peixoto is one of Portugal’s most famous contemporary novelists. Xiao Bai is a Chinese writer, and Zou Zou is a Chinese literary editor and novelist. During the event, four writers talk with the host about how they become writers and what problems and challenges they meet during the literary creation  by questions and answers

Q1: I know you are all successful writers. Then the question is, at the beginning, what makes you choose writing as your career ?

Aleš Šteger

Since I was a child, I have realized that language is not automatically given. It has the characteristics of vulnerability and loss, so when we are writing, we are not speaking a language, but treating a fragile thing prudently. Therefore, in the process of writing, we are not expressing a language but finding and building it.

As for why I write, I have not found answers yet up to now, but I think it has a close relation with my reading experiences in the early period. Writing attracts me to do something different from what I used to do. I can get inspiration from writing, which like some strength,  pushes me to move forward. 

José Luís Peixoto

In my writing experience, books play an important role. For only a few books could be read when I was young, I spent much time getting close to books. I studied at the university and worked as a teacher for four years. Later, I published my first novel and won an award. From then on I started to become a professional writer.

When writing becomes a job, we should consider two aspects: first, profession is somewhat realistic. For example, we receive income from writing. Second, as the work noumenon, you are building work subject in the process of respecting your profession. Or in other words, you build your profession when building work subject.

Xiao Bai:

I think I can answer this question from two parts: first, it is accidental: it’s easy to understand that  I don’t write on purpose and writing comes to me. At that time, I was at home and editors always invited me to write, then I become a writer after writing continually. Second, it is an inevitability. Everyone has his own talent. The people who are destined to become writers, must like fantasy and have the ability to enter other people’s life and perform other people’s life.

Zou Zou:

I began writing because I felt lonely and I hoped to confirm my existence in the world through writing. However, now I get out and find the world I describe is very small from the view of the earth and the history, which is only one explanation of human destiny.


Q2: I guess that it is a tough road to be a writer and more or less, there are challenges on this road, so how do you face or conquer them?

Zou Zou:

For me, the real challenge appears during the period that I write the fate of intellectuals in Yan’ an period. My theme is around Hu Feng. After preparing materials for more than one year, I found I was too exhausted. The older people get, the more afraid they will be when they meet major themes.

Xiao Bai:

It seems to me that there are difficulties and challenges every day.  But from another perspective, you can regard writing as playing games, then it becomes a happy thing. There are many topics on my computer desktop. When writing, I always change perspectives, grammatical persons and structures. I believe, in this way it’s very funny to treat difficulties and challenges. 


Q: (asking José Luís Peixoto) You just mentioned the work subject and professional writing. I want to ask you, “do you regret your choice that you give up teaching to become a writer?”

José Luís Peixoto:

I believe that everything has two sides, the same as writing. It has advantages and disadvantages. But I choose writing voluntarily, so I focus on its good aspects. In brief, there are challenges in the writing, which you should endeavor to overcome. Nothing can replace the satisfaction that you gain from overcoming difficulties.


Q: (asking José Luís Peixoto) You have published so many books, so you must pay a lot of effort for so much achievement. Is there a moment that you feel too tired to keep writing?

I believe that as an artist or a writer, you should try something impossible. In the process of creation, I always constantly create something and deny something. This process makes you crazy. For example, when I write, sometimes I piece together plots in my mind, or even the whole novel suddenly appears in my mind. But I often spend several years for this moment.


At the final Q&A session, the four writers and audiences further discussed and interacted with above questions. Through this event, we can witness the writing experiences of writers, understand and get closer to the writing itself.