Dialogue with Wang Meng:
Always Be Grateful to Xinjiang and Never Forget “the Scenery Here”
According to a report by xinhuanet in Beijing on 7 September (the reporter is Shi Jingnan), the 81-year-old writer, Wang Meng was again brought to public attention, winning the ninth Mao Dun Literature Prize with his novel “The Scenery Here”, which fully depicts the customs and charm of Xinjiang.
His titles, such as famous contemporary Chinese writer, scholar, former minister of culture, honorary president of the China Writers Association, etc, are not as reflective of him as his experience as a “Xinjiang folk”, as his once lived in Xinjiang for 16 years, during which he had a proficient grasp of the Uygur language and he was considered as a close family member of the Uygur compatriots.
What does Xinjiang mean to him? What is the different scenery of Xinjiang in his eye? Asked by reporters, Wang Meng talked enthusiastically about his love and longing for the
“Xinjiang has enabled me to find happiness”
Like the western-region version of the famous painting “Along the River during the Qingming Festival”, “The Scenery Here” provides a panoramic realistic account of the life of the multi-ethnic area of Xinjiang in the early 1960s, with over 80 characters and 14 ethnic groups. So it is both a landscape drawing and a grand epic of the frontier Xinjiang.
The description of the great variety of Xinjiang food, like nuts, tea, hand pilaf, roasted meat, oily pyramid, milk knots (dried cheese), kumiss, and so on in his novel brings the fragrance of the Xinjiang kitchen to life.
Wang Meng said, “I have been able to write about the life of Xinjiang in a very detailed and realistic manner, because I was truly integrated into the community of farmers of all ethnic groups there back then.”
He has not only learned the Uygur language systematically but also thinks and writes in that language. In writing conversations in the novel, in particular, he would first think about how the dialogue would be like in the Uygur language and then he would translate it into Chinese. That is why he has demonstrated an interesting fresh linguistic style in the novel.
“For example, the Uygur language says “honey flows from his tongue” to depict the eloquence of a person. Although the book is set in the special era, a lot of the trivial stories in it has brought me many fond memories, which have sometimes even moved me to tears.”
“The Scenery Here” was written in 1960 and completed in 1978 and was not published until 2013, decades after its creation. It was published only after his children found it by chance in the old house. His love for Xinjiang and for life has exceeded the all kinds of limits of the then environment, thus giving the work long-standing vigor.
The scripts of the book regained life and brought memories of Xinjiang to Wang Meng.
“I went to Xinjiang at the age of
Wang Meng told the journalists that two Xinjiang proverbs leave a deep impression on him. One is that all except death is “Tamaxiaer”. Play, walk, rest and singing are all “Tamaxiaer, meaning that man should seek happiness. The other proverb is that if a person has two Nangs, then he or she should eat one and take the other as a drum and dance while drumming it. It is exactly this optimism that has affected Wang Meng and his works.
He said with emotion that “even if during that difficult period, a period of abnormal political life for the country, there was still the passion for life there and that passion is the best gift and education to him from the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
“I was so much indebted to the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang”, said Wang Meng. “I found happiness during an unhappy period of time and found the things that I most wanted to do during a period when I had nothing to do.”
“Different ethnic groups are as close as one family”
“I am grateful to the daughters and sons of
That is what Wang Meng said when the ninth Mao Dun Literature Prize was announced. He believed that winning the prize was not his own credit, but also the credit of many friends from Xinjiang.
“This book would not have been possible without the years of life in the rural area, the experience of living and working and eating together with the local farmers of different ethnic groups, the grasp of the Uygur language and the love and input for life, the land, the frontier of Xinjiang and each and every day”, said Wang Meng.
He has put the mutual understanding and friendship between various ethnic groups into the lines of his work, with his meticulous observation of the life in Xinjiang and his sincere sentiments for the people in Xinjiang.
The details in the novel often come from the personal experiences of Wang Meng. He gives us an example. “Once, I was riding a bike. Suddenly a lady hopped on the back seat and before I looked back to find out who it was, the lady said that ‘Old brother Wang, take me a ride, quickly please!’ and while I was riding, she jumped off out of a sudden. I really could not recognize her. But it reflects a person-to-person relationship and an ethnic relationship. They definitely did not take me as a stranger different from them. Rather they considered me as their own brother.”
“In addition to Uygurs, I also have very good friends from other ethnic groups, such as Kazak, Xibo, Uzbek and Keerkezi. We are very close with each other and there is nothing we cannot talk about.” Different ethnic groups are just like one family. To Wang Meng, that is because “they are closely connected in heart though different in culture”.
“I am full of confidence in Xinjiang’s future”
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Wang Meng recalled his “second hometown”, with tears shining behind his thick glasses. “I believe that the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang will surely win a bright future!”
Wang Meng believes that to have a better future for Xinjiang, the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang should be enabled to share the benefits of socialist modernization, reform and opening up and development and at the same time their ethnic traditions and special features shall be protected and valued.
“I believe that under the leadership of the central government and the party committee of the autonomous region, the situation in Xinjiang will get better and better”, said Wang Meng. “From the perspective of the overall development of Xinjiang, it is only a natural course that people will live a united, peaceful and happy life. I hope that more and more compatriots of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang will broaden their vision and improve their life in the modern world. I am full of confidence in the future of Xinjiang!”
Wang Meng said that he will go back to Xinjiang, the mysterious landaslong as there is an opportunity. “I always believe in the unity and friendship of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang! All the best to Xinjiang, to the people of all ethnic groups and to the harmonious coexistence of different cultures, religions and customs!” (Journalists who participated in the interview include Jiang Xiao, Xiao Taijing and Xu Yuting)