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A Novel Approach: Language, Style and Experiments

The event invited four highly regarded writers to discuss their own novels with the theme of “A Novel Approach: Language Style and Experiments” and how they conducted their experiments in the novels and feelings gained in the process.     First, the moderator Tina introduced the four writers respectively: Chinese writer Teng Xiaolan, Xue Shu, Portuguese writer José Luís Peixoto and Irish Dublin writer Gavin Corbett.

The activity took the form of moderator ask questions and writers share their ideas via answering the questions. The first question is why experiment and how to conduct experiment in the writing. Teng Xiaolan, from her opinion, creating a novel is a process of innovation and self-change. In writing, writers can constantly review their previous novels and constantly ask themselves where they can do better. She stressed that for a writer, the most important quality is self-confidence. Even if questioned by the outside world, they should listen to their own voice deep in their mind. José Luís Peixoto held the view that fiction writing is an ambitious way of communicating with tradition, reality, and the cultural system of fiction. New books may be placed in the literary tradition and be compared with the classics. Literature does not need to create new skills but to pursue things that have never been expressed. Xue Shu reviewed her writing process and found that she started writing by impulsion. Later she found that this kind of writing could not satisfy herself and began to try different writing methods. She took the writing of Ferris Wheel as an example to explain the choice of writing method is, in the final analysis, her inner choice. Gavin Corbett recalled that he began to write because of personal frustration. When he was young, he realized that he was useless to the society, confused about the meaning and the goal of life. For not able to compose a novel in a complex way, therefore he focused on the polishing of sentences—how to express life. Every time he began writing, he was attacked by different energy. Generally, he wrote with impressionism, and ideas were shaped in the process of writing. He may dialogue with history when he wrote, constantly dialogue with Irish spirits and then dialogue with the passed self.

The second question from Tina is about failure of novel experiment. When writers try something that forerunners never tried, how to deal with such kind of failure, or what kind of feelings they have experienced in the writing. Teng Xiaolan took her novels Resee Thunderstorm, Four Pedestrians and a financial story based Lu Jia Zui as an example to illustrate in over ten years writing, there were many experiences of overthrowing, rewriting, modifying and modifying, and the ability of navigating novels thus enhanced. José Luís Peixoto exemplified with his writings Piano Cemetery and Book. Only in the latter part of Piano Cemetery, can readers clearly distinguish between the two narrators in the novel, father and son who were talking. In the novel Book, many experiments were conducted on narrative angles. The most important experiment was the last 19 pages that overturned the previous content in an explosive way. He believed that, to some extent, each novel is an experiment, the author and readers cannot know the direction pf the story before it ends, and failure is inevitable. Xue Shu said that she encountered failure time to time. The happiness of writing only lies in the moment of completing a novel. Then very quickly, the novel is found to be imperfect. Writers can only leave alone the imperfect bloom and look forward to the next one. She believed that this is a gift and also a test from Heaven to writers, immersing in failure, and taking every step forward better. Gavin Corbett revealed that he had written a novel full of failures, and he hoped never to be discovered. He also mentioned his own novel The Skull Glittering Green and two failed writings invited by Radio Ireland.

Finally there came to the interactive session of the audience and the writers. One of the audience asked “which writer influenced the most of your writing?”.     Teng Xiaoluan said she has many idols. She has an idol for each writing period, such as Jin Yong, Wang Xiaobo and so on. But what really provoked her to write a novel was Wang Anyi’s well-written Shanghai life. José Luís Peixoto recently received lots of consultation on reading from young readers. In the course of reply, he discovered that in order to become a writer, one must not only read the works of great writers but also read ordinary writers. Faced with numerous books, readers must have the ability to bear shocks and accept confusion. Xue Shu said frankly that Yu Hua’s Legend of Xu Sanguan Selling Blood stimulated her to write. She saw herself in Yu Hua’s book. She was not influenced by certain writer, but happened to share the same life with the writer. She did not recommend any books for young people because she does not know that in whose writings the readers will find themselves. Gavin Corbett said that Samuel Beckett has a great influence on him. His works have Samuel’s mystery of creativity and vitality. He also will not recommend books to young people because he thought that he was influenced by the dark and dirty aspect of Ireland.     In the end, the moderator Tina borrowed the words of José Luís Peixoto “Every novel is an experiment” to end the activity.