French diarist pens Beijing book
Updated: 2014-05-20 15:09
( China Daily)
Vincent Hein prefers descriptions over commentary while exploring the land alien to him. Photos provided to China Daily
French writer Vincent Hein's diary of life in Beijing has been published in Chinese. He chats to Sun Ye about why he loves living in the capital.
Guess the location:
It's freakishly cold in winter. It's an acoustic war zone when the year's biggest holiday hits and its residents walk around in pajamas and recommend drinking hot water for every ailment.
If you have spent any time in the Chinese capital you have probably named Beijing. Vincent Hein, a 44-year-old French author who calls the city home, has documented these observations, and many more, in his published diary of his time in China, A l'est des nuages (East of the Clouds), which was recently translated into Chinese.
The book presents the Beijing experience so well that it has won over Li Yanming, the translator and professor of French literature with Beijing International Studies University.
"He has immersed himself in the life of Chinese and shows the way it really is," Li says. "Too much writing today concerns ancient thoughts and ideology. But Hein shows life as it is in China.
"It's a proper guide to the country and it's a very rare accomplishment for today's literature on China."
But the book of diaries that spans from 2005 to 2008 is about more than one man's experience of living in the capital.
By keeping notes on his life hanging out in local restaurants, in the hutong, old-fashioned tailor shops and other daily encounters, Hein has observed aspects of life that are not necessarily specific to Asia.
"Man is fundamentally the same everywhere," he says, sipping an espresso.
"If you feel a place is strange, the problem isn't the place. The problem is yourself," says Hein, who won the Prix Litteraire de l'Asie (French Asian Literary Prize) in 2013.
Hein first arrived in China 25 years ago, when he came to Beijing to study Chinese for a year as an exchange student from Paris-based Sorbonne University.
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