I just came across the following video, a lecture by Xi Chuan in English from Spring, 2009, to the Columbia University Alumni Association in Beijing. He discusses the relationship between Xu Zhimo 徐志摩 and Rabindranath Tagore in the context of China, India, and the West and their impact on modern Chinese poetry (with honorable mentions of Kenneth Rexroth, Amy Lowell, and Ezra Pound). He ends with a reading of the poem “My Grandma” 我奶奶 in Chinese, with my English translation read by Austin Woerner.
(apologies to readers in the PRC; I was unable to locate the video on Youku)
While I expect it will be some time until the participants of the India-China Writers Dialogues publish anything about the event–these writers want to be thorough and accurate to both reality and emotion–I did come across another press report, from Express India. It begins discussing the germ of the idea with Sharmistha Mohanty and Bei Dao, and moving on toward the following detail:
Since the beginning of the dialogue two years ago, the participants have been the same group of writers, and Mohanty believes this has been a very important aspect. “With the same group of writers meeting each time, we have become good friends and learnt a lot from each other,” she says. Besides the speakers for the panel discussion, the participants include Allan Sealy, Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Adil Jussawalla, Vivek Narayanan and K Satchidanandan from India and Ge Fei, Xi Chuan, Zhai Yongming and Ouyang Jianghe from China.
These discussions are not limited to analysing writing styles and such. In the course of these two years, the participants have exchanged a great deal about their histories and cultures, too. “We talk about a variety of things,” says Mohanty. “For instance, what does tradition mean to us? How is it represented in our lives and works? Or how a writer wrestles with his past when he is writing. We discuss whether he rejects that long past or embraces it, and so on.”
This year, Indian writers such as I Allan Sealy, Adil Jussawalla and Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan are interacting with poets such as Han Shaogong, Xi Chuan and exiled dissident poet Bei Dao over three days in Mumbai, which began on Monday.
While the dialogues are closed-door events, the writers will give a public reading of their works on December 20 and will hold a shorter public dialogue on December 21.
“All we see in the media is hype about the economic rivalry between India and China, which is a limited view,” said Chinese critic and academician Lydia Liu. “Our cultures have thousands of years of association and many things in common, which writers are more sensitive to.”
See also the Almost Island publication of Mohanty’s essay on her experiences in China, “Mountains and Rivers“; Xi Chuan only gets the briefest of mentions (Bei Dao 北岛, Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河, and Li Tuo 李陀 get fuller discussions), but it’s a grand take on one writer’s considerations of China and its contrasts with India. Also the prose poem “Editorial Sutras,” which offers Mohanty’s impressions of the first Chinese – Indian Writers’ Dialogue, in 2009.
Time Out Mumbai has an article on next week’s India-China Writers Dialogue, titled “Sino the Times.” Despite the lame title, it’s actually an informative write-up. Here’s the paragraph where Xi Chuan is quoted:
The dialogues are “not American workshop-like”, agreed poet Xi Chuan, who has studied in the US and lives in Beijing, in an e-mail interview. “It is not only about writing, about language, style, structure or writing experiences. The issue of writing comes with a sense of history and reality, and the true understanding of selves in a big cultural and philosophical context.” [Xi] Chuan, who first visited India in 1997, said that the two countries serve as “mirrors” to each other. “Both Chinese and Indian writers have to face mountains of cultural traditions and the big shadow of Western culture.”
Xi Chuan will be traveling to Mumbai soon for the India-China Writers Dialogues. Here is a press release along with a schedule of speakers:
The online literature journal Almost Island, founded and edited by novelist Sharmistha Mohanty along with poet Vivek Narayanan, has begun a dialogue with mainland Chinese writers. The first such dialogue, led on the Chinese side by the great contemporary poet Bei Dao and the seminal journal Jintian (Today), was held in 2009 in New Delhi. This was possibly the first unofficial dialogue between Indian and Chinese writers in recent times. The second was held in China, in Beijing and Shanghai. This Mumbai meet is the third chapter of the dialogues. It brings together some of China’s and India’s leading writers. Ashis Nandy who has been part of these dialogues, has called it “historical”. He has said, “This is not a meeting between two countries, but an encounter between two civilisations.” The two evenings of readings will be rich with poets and novelists from both countries reading from their exceptional works.
Zhai Yongming 翟永明
Xi Chuan 西川
Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Ge Fei 格非
Ouyang Jianghe 欧阳江河
Han Shanogong 韩少功
Bei Dao 北岛