Friday, November 10, 2006

Qiu Xiaolong on genre and conventions

I've praised Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine often. Christopher G. Moore's site links to an illuminating interview from 2003 with Qiu. Here's an excerpt that every fan of crime fiction and literature that crosses borders will want to read:

"When I wrote the first book, I had not intended to write it as a `detective story,' so I did not pay much attention to special conventions or tricks at the time. I merely wanted to write a book about contemporary China, which has been little introduced in the West, but it turned out to be a mystery. I think it is perhaps because mystery happens to be one of my favorite genres, and it provides a ready framework for the story.

"I chose to set the story in the early 1990s, as it's a transitional period, in which the old value system is being questioned, while the new is not being established. In that sense, I may be more or less like Chief Inspector Chen, an intellectual questioning and being questioned all the time. As a result, the drama is staged outside as well as inside.

"Of course, I am not Chief Inspector Chen. I have never been a cop, or a Party member, but as far as his passion for poetry (for Eliot especially, whose poetry I have translated into Chinese) and for food, he has my shadow. Another passion I share with him is go chess games, as described in the novel. With my second book, my editor insisted on the discovery of a body at the very beginning, and I complied, which may be a trick, but not really mine."

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