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Famous Writer Wang Meng at Hebei Normal University: The Curtain Never Falls on Literature

Date: 2017-06-09

On 5 June, Wang Meng, the renowned Chinese writer, gave a lecture entitled “Literature Forever” to an audience of almost 1,000 faculty members and students at Hebei Normal University.

He said, “Right now, literature is not at its high point. Yet it is times like this that makes me more eager to talk about what I think about literature; because the curtain never falls on literature.” From the Dream of the Red Chamber and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms to the Arabian Nights, from the novels of Lu Xun and Anton Chekhov to the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the 83-year old writer roamed freely in Chinese and foreign literary classics, citing phrases and paragraphs, his spirits high, his voice ringing, his language humorous, and his views clear and enlightening, charming his audience with a deep knowledge in literature.

Talking about the eternal question of what literature is for, Wang drew on his 60-year experience working in the field. He said, “Literary works is a source of fun, knowledge, and profound emotions. My first book, when I was a second grader, was a collection of fine essays by elementary school students. One of the essays described the moon rising in the sky as jiaojie (bright and clear), and I was so impressed. ” He said, after reading this, the phrase would come to his mind whenever he saw the moon. “This phrase helps me know the moon. It makes the moon no longer a strange thing, but a charming object.” Just like that, a small phrase opened the door for him into the fascinating world of literature and showed him a way which he followed with determination and perseverance. In his eyes, literature makes many human experiences more wonderful, beautiful, and touching.

“Literature weaves our lives, holds back time, and keeps our memory alive.” At 19 years old, he wrote Long Live the Youth, his first full-length novel. “The youthfulness and passion you feel when you are writing something may fade with time. But literary works keep the memory and feeling fresh for much longer. They do not age as you do.” He said. Think of the Book of Songs. Although compiled centuries ago, its beautiful words and vivid depictions still conjure up lovely pictures.

“Literature sets free our wildest imagination. Without literature, the mind and spirit of human beings will be a barren land.” Wang pointed to how literature made the impossible as real as it can be. In the Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the heroines, a sentimental and sensitive girl, is said to be the reincarnation of a magical plant in heaven. In her lifetime as a plant, she was watered everyday by a kind boy who later chose an earthly life. To repay his kindness, the plant followed him to the earth and became a girl deeply in love with him. All the water she received as a plant turned into tears the girl shed for her love for the boy. “It is only in literary works, not real life, where our imagination can be so free. Literature fills our life with hope and imagination.”

He said, “Literature is the art of the mind. You must use your eyes and heart to feel it.” Today, multimedia technologies have turned some literary works into an audiovisual art. Yet Wang believes language remains the most important channel to express the human mind. Audiovisual art may be more accessible, but the curtain will never fall on literature, the art of language.