2:10pm | Q&A Q: Was you first book translated into Chinese? Why was it banned? A: Hill says that, “I sold the rights to the Chinese translation and government sensors said no. Hill says that it was frustrating because the book, “said everything I felt about modern China, and I was honored by translation rights, but I’m not sure I have an answer to why it was banned.” After describing a bit about the book, Hill concludes with the theory that, “the book was socially relevant without being political and there was nothing really in there that Chinese people weren’t saying openly, but maybe being a foreigner made it more sensitive.”
1:57pm | Q&A Q: Were there times translating Yu’s Chinese poems to English that you had difficulty getting her ideas through? “It’s difficult for anyone translating poetry from that period to be true to the text,” explains Hill. “I actually don’t read Chinese very well so I had Chinese friends help me.” This was a long process though, which Hill says took him about three years. And even with the utmost care, “you will always loose stuff … You have pictures through the characters you just don’t have in English … the only way for me was to make English poems from the Chinese ones. You will always lose something [in translation] but hopefully you’ll also gain something as well.
1:55pm | Q&A Q: Were you torn between writing about this woman’s real life and writing a novel? Hill explains that, “There’s so little information about her [Yu’s] life, so no—it was easy for me as novelist to fill in the gaps.” Hill said he based much of his writing on her poem. “Her poems were a touch stone,” but he had to “work backwards and try and figure out who would write those poems.” He said it was also a challenge to try and peg event in the book to “real events—those recorded in history. I knew I had to get her to those points, which was a difficult process … I followed the real life events, which seems like the most authentic way to proceed with the novel.”
1:50pm | Passionate Affair Writing his fist book, The Drink and Dream Teahouse, took him only six months. Hill described the process as, “a mad passionate love affair.” Because of the intensity of the first experience, Hill said he was tentative to write a second book, “I was kind of afraid to start another affair.”
1:49pm | Rural China One way Hill said he gleaned a view of the past was when he lived in rural China. He told the audience a story of when he visited a student's home, a building which had just gotten electricity. He recounted an anecdote involving a light bulbs and a bathroom connected to a pig sty to help the audience understand his research process and how he related to the Tang Dynasty.
1:45pm | Commentary Hill admits that when we began his most recent book, that “I didn’t know much about the Tang dynasty,” but there were hints still over Asia. One example he gives is that “the national dress of Korea is very similar to what was worn during the Tang Dynasty.” Hill also cites modern Japanese customs that reflect Tang dynasty habits, “so there were lots of ways for me to glean what life was like during this time.” For Hill, he said, one of the most difficult things was to figure out how to, “present the information [about the Tang dynasty] to people in a way they find it interesting.”
1:37pm | Reading Hill’s reading begins at the middle of the book. The reading described Yu’s life before her divorce from her husband, when he disappeared from the home. The book describes in detail the night her husband came back after a long absence with a new concubine.
1:31pm | Period Research “The more I researched the Tang dynasty, the more western it seemed in a way ... The neck lines for females plunged during the Tang dynasty … this period was interesting, a very unlike the China we expect…"
1:28pm | Poetry Reading When Hill was researching his book The Drink and Dream Teahouse, Hill read poems he found from Yu Xuanji. “What really marks these [feminist]. Hill noted Yu's poetry is "is different, it wasn’t common passive female perspective.” After searching, Hill and his colleagues found and tried to translate the 49 poems in from Yu’s work collection "that have come down to modern times."
1:27pm | Back in Shanghai This isn't Hill's first time in Shanghai. He notes that the last time he was in Shanghai was 1995, “It certainly looked different from now … I judge how Shanghai’s changing by how many foreigners show up to things.”
1:25pm | Welcome Michelle welcomes Justin while reminding the crowd of the normal house keeping rules and apologizes for the Bund construction, well timed for the last weekend of the lit festival. One of the most interesting acedotes from Michelle’s intro is her note that one of Hill’s books in banned in China, but they let him in anyway
1:05pm | Milling About Author Justin Hill mills about with the audience as people gather for his talk on his latest book about [Yu Xuanji] (http://anonymouse.org/cgi-bin/anon-www.cgi/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Xuanji).
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