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Between the Stacks: Li’Er

Renown Chinese writer Li’Er recently joined us at The Bookworm for the launch of the English translation of his work The Magician of 1919. He talked about his unique approach to history in his writing and the symbolism of a magician.

When asked why he chose to write about a magician in 1919, in the dawn of the May Fourth Movement, Li’Er explained that
history to him has been always mysterious as if it was handled by a magician. A seemingly simply man, and a simple event, may change history entirely. Li’Er often tends to write about intellectuals in China. With his latest work, he has continued this trend. According to Li’Er, the year 1919 is a dividing line that puts Chinese intellectuals on the frontline of history.

And who are the magicians in contemporary Chinese life? Li’Er argued that many manipulative hands are controlling various aspects of our lives, such as the stock market, real estate and media. These industries are equally using their magic power to influence our lives though we may not even notice.

We sat down with Li’Er after his illuminating booktalk to chat about books, the writing life and Beijing food.

Simone Shi: If not writing, what profession would you have?

Li’Er: A journalist or a teacher. Being a journalist, I will be able to keep a wide contact with the world while being a teacher  I will have regular communication with young people.

SS: What’s your writing habit? Do you have a regular writing schedule or are you the type of writer who writes when inspired?

LE: For many years, I have had a regular writing schedule though it has been increasingly difficult when you have a child.

SS: What are you reading now?

LE: I picked up Fengtang’s Bu’Er at your bookshop the other day and have enjoyed reading it so far. I do not know him at all, thus I have no intention to advertise for him. I read one of his earlier works before and had no great impression. However this new book certainly impressed me. He is definitely a young writer with true talent, so a great writer to be in the future.

SS: After spending so much time in Beijing, what is your favorite Beijing food?

LE:  One of the great advantages of living in Beijing is the large variety of cuisine available here. I personally like things light, thus cooking from HANGZHOU appeals to me the most.

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