An author as good as his word
Author Yu Hua meets readers and talks about his new novel Wencheng at a recent promotional event in a Beijing bookstore.
Authors expect, and indeed sometimes thrive on, criticism. Critics are well armed; they can, after all, throw the book at authors. Yu Hua seems almost to prove the point. His sixth full-length novel Wencheng has just been published, as if to feed the critics' appetite. "I hope everyone comes to criticize me," the well-known writer says. "Criticism means attention. If there is no criticism that means nobody focuses on you."
Yu is well-known for To Live, his signature award-winning novel, released in 1993, but his last full-length novel Seventh Day, published eight years ago, may have prepared him for such attention, as the critics targeted the latter.
Some commented: "This book (Seventh Day) is just a collection of news!" The protagonist of that book is a deceased man, Yang Fei, and it tells of the social problems that his ghost witnesses. Compared with that last book, Yu was expecting that "there would be more criticism" for his latest literary effort, Wencheng, but "in fact, the criticism was less".
The creation process for Wencheng was complicated. "The writers of our generation have an aspiration to write a story across 100 years. Therefore, I wanted to write a story that happened before To Live," Yu says. After publishing To Live, Yu began to create this story. But after writing more than 200,000 characters, he succumbed to writer's block. After publishing Brothers in 2005, he continued the story; after publishing Seventh Day in 2013, he moved it further again. Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Yu finally completed the novel.