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The literary French connection

Updated: 2013-09-19 09:46
By Liu Lu ( China Daily)

The literary French connection

Ya Ding says he tries to give French people a better picture of contemporary China. Provided to China Daily

Chinese writer hoping to deepen exchanges between China and Western countries through filmmaking.

Ya Ding is a man of many titles, but all of them are connected with one country - France.

As one of the few well-known Chinese writers in France and president of the Association for the Development of China-France Exchanges, the 57-year-old spends much of his time promoting cultural and business exchanges between the two countries.

"French people are puzzled by how much China has achieved economically in just 30 years," Ya says. "They have a curiosity and urge to better understand China rather than just its economic strength."

However, cultural understanding between France and China is imbalanced, he says, with Chinese people's knowledge of France outstripping knowledge the other way.

A number of French literary classics have been translated into Chinese in recent decades, he says, including works by Victor Hugo and Romain Rolland, and this has given Chinese readers a better understanding of modern France. In contrast, French peoples' knowledge of China is usually restricted to traditional culture.

"I am looking to give French people a better picture of contemporary China and provide those who are keen to learn various aspects of China from fresh perspectives, so they can know more about the world's second-largest economy."

Ya has long backed up his words with work. He began his career as a translator of French literature and in 1985 was awarded a young translator prize and 50,000 francs ($10,700) by the French government for his Chinese translation of French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre's masterpiece L'Age de Raison. He went to France to receive the award and has lived there since.

Ya has also been a prolific writer in French about China, completing seven books on his homeland to date. The first of these, Le Sorgho Rouge, is autobiographical, and provides bitter observations on the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), while examining Ya's relationship with his father.

The book was an instant hit in France, selling 500,000 copies as soon as it was published to become the country's best-seller in 1987. It also won the writer eight French literary awards, including the Prix Cazes and the Prix de L'Asie, and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, one of France's most important literary prizes.

Since then it has been translated into more than a dozen languages, including German, English, Japanese and Chinese.

The literary French connection

The literary French connection

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