Linda Jaivin speaks at Bookworm Tonight

Australian author and Asialink Writer in Residence at The Bookworm Linda Jaivin, will be reading from her books and talking about her work at the Bookworm tonight. If you're unfamiliar with her work, take a look at Fiona Lee’s great interview with the author (included below) for some idea of what to expect. Personally, I regard The Monkey and the Dragon as one of the best “China books” around. Tickets are required, so it’s worth calling the Bookworm to confirm that there are still some spare seats. RMB 20-30.
7.30pm. The Bookworm (6586 9507)

If you can’t make it to tonight’s talk, the author will also be holding a creative writing workshop on Oct 24-25. She’ll lead a creative writing course aimed at providing writers with a set of skills and techniques that can be adapted to suit many genres, styles and formats. Reservations required. RMB 380 (includes morning coffee and lunch).
10am-5pm. The Bookworm (6586 9507)

Fiona Lee’s interview with Linda Jaivin first appeared in the October issue of the Beijinger magazine.

Australian writer, journalist and translator Linda Jaivin is a woman of many talents, who has penned some internationally-acclaimed bestsellers – such as the erotically charged Eat Me (you can read the first chapter here - but be warned, you'll never be look at the fresh food section of the supermarket in the same way again!)and the darkly comedic The Infernal Optimist. Her non-fiction work includes co-editing New Ghosts, Old Dreams with ex-husband Sinologist Geremie Barmé, and her own memoir, Confessions of an S&M Virgin. She’s also taken forays into the art world and had an occasional turn as a punk rock diva.

Fascinated by China, Jaivin returns to Beijing for October and November as the first writer in The Bookworm’s Asialink Writer in Residence program. On the eve of her arrival, the Beijinger caught up with Jaivin to discuss erotica, academia and feminism.

the Beijinger: Your history with China dates back to 1980. How would you characterize your relationship with this country?

Linda Jaivin: I don’t know if you can have a “relationship” with a place as complex, big, interesting and heterogenous as China. If China were a man, my relationship might be described as an entirely one-sided, on-again, off-again infatuation. I’ve spent years learning his language and trying to understand his way of thinking, habits and moods, but China has never really noticed me at all. There’s a lot of freedom in that. But I wouldn’t call it a relationship.

the Beijinger: Transgression, whether it is sexual (Eat Me) or societal (The Monkey and the Dragon), is a consistent theme. What draws you to write about characters that are compelled to push boundaries?

LJ: I am often attracted to outlaw personalities, not in the literal sense of criminals, but in the sense of rebels and radicals, usually artistic, who dwell in the margins – guairen. This is true in fiction and in real life. As for sexual transgression, I think that for a writer, naughty sex is good sex. That extends to fiction generally – unless someone crosses some line they should not have, shakes up the order of things, breaks a rule, you don’t have much of a narrative.

the Beijinger: Your translation work includes the subtitles for films including Farewell My Concubine and Hero. How is translating for film different from translating for literature?

LJ: Obviously, there’s the question of length. With fiction, you have the luxury of using as many words as it takes to convey the sense and “feel” of the original. With subtitles, you have a very limited space in which to work. It’s an interesting challenge to achieve the greatest economy of language possible. Whereas literary translation can involve writing long, convoluted sentences (if that best reflects the style of the original text), with subtitles you need to order your words in a strict, linear logic. A subtitle has to be so instantly and easily understood it’s almost invisible. It should never pull focus.

the Beijinger: Do you think of yourself as a feminist writer?

LJ: Absolutely. But I’m not a particularly dogmatic sort of feminist. I believe that any ideology without a sense of humor or which can’t admit the confounding complexity of human nature is doomed. That’s why I give the feminist lecturer character in Eat Me some of the wildest scenes, including rough sex with a man she’s just met, and sex with a student.

the Beijinger: What do you have planned for the future?

LJ: I’m just finishing a historical novel called A Most Immoral Woman. It’s set in China and Japan in 1904, based on a fairly lusty episode in the life of the great Australian journalist (and later adviser to Yuan Shikai), George “Chinese” Morrison.

Links and Sources
The Beijing Bookworm Danwei: Lupine lactose intolerant (Jaivin's review of Wolf Totem) Photo: Provided by Andrzej Liguz

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