What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
At my age, I seldom read fiction or essays. I prefer history books, especially books on traditional Chinese culture. I am currently collecting historical data for my next novel, so I have been reading a lot about the history of the development of the New Fourth Army, founded during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression between 1937 and 1945. The most impressive case is the 1941 South Anhui Incident. At a life-and-death moment, it is essential to take into account the dark and cruel side of human nature.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
When I was eight, I started reading “Dream of the Red Chamber,” written in the middle of the 18th century by Chinese writer Cao Xueqin. I remembered one day, sitting on the bookshelf of my father’s study, I just couldn’t hold back my tears. A great story is always written to have an emotional impact.
Do you have a favorite classic work of Chinese literature?
“Dream of the Red Chamber,” of course. The 1960s edition in vertical direction has been accompanying me all these years.
Do you have a favorite childhood literary character or hero?
In my teenage days in the 1960s, I adored military heroes, such as Ouyang Hai from a book entitled “Ode to Ouyang Hai,” written in 1965 by Jin Jingmai. We didn’t get pocket money from our parents, so I just had to cut my knee-length braid to pay for the book. People of my generation grew up in an era of heroism. Revolutionary heroic legend novels such as “The Red Rock” have greatly influenced me — their dedication, their commitment, their discipline and their code of ethics.
Who are the best writers, you think, working today?
I don’t like to use the word “best” because there are many writers that I like. I admire them for being professional about their work. I often read books by women authors who write about the social changes in a modern city.
Are there “surprising” books on your bookshelves?
I am a devotee of comic strips since I do draw quite well. Over 10 years ago, I did illustrations for my serial novel “The Painting.” I am going to illustrate my newly released novel “The Voice Behind The Mask” this year, too.
If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
I want to meet Cao Xueqin, Leo Tolstoy and Victor Hugo. I want to ask them how they managed to combine perfectly the history of the country and huge changes in society with personal experiences and emotions.