China-Latin America’s Literary Communication Narrows Distance between Minds and Souls of Peoples
—Chinese Writer Alai’s Literary Lecture Arouses Strong Responses in Latin America

[Source] [Time]    2017-06-29 17:57:20 

By invitation of the “Chinese Writers Forum” and organized by the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center(CILARC), well-known Chinese writer Alai, also President of Sichuan Writers Association and the youngest winner of Mao Dun Literature Prize in China, recently gave lectures on literature at the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center and four Confucius Institutes in Chile and Peru. He engaged in in-depth exchanges with local literary enthusiasts and enjoyed considerable acclaim.

Alai giving a lecture at CILARC

On June 14th, a literary lecture themed “Pablo Neruda Calling Me upon Latin America” was given by Alai at CILARC, and attracted around 100 literary fans to attend. Alai noted that literature is spiritual nutrition for a nation, and an important reflection of its level of civilization. There are numerous high-quality literary works in Chinese history and Chinese contemporary literature is stepping into a new creative era, along with the great course of China’s reform. He also expressed that Pablo Neruda is one of the representatives of Chilean and Latin American literature, whose poems reveal historical width and depth, as well as subtle feelings with free and hearty style.

When asked how China’s great changes in recent decades are embodied in his works, Alai replied, “Literature is used to record our life—all changes are not abstract but gradual happenings and a combination of one individual’s life and society. As writers, we have the responsibility to record all of this honestly. As for issues of modernity, when such changes occur, some improvements indeed take place in the aspect of material life. However, the pace of material development is too fast and brings some moral and ethical problems. With the gradual vanishing of old morals and ethics, new morals and ethics need to be established in the new society, but this process is significantly slower than that of economic and material development. These result in a gap, which generates a series of social contradictions and makes people feel unsettled. This is exactly where we most need literature, so we can write all of these into books to alert you and remind you.”

On June 15th, 2017, Alai was invited to visit the Confucius Institute at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. He described the process of people's constant cognitive process of unfamiliar culture, as well as the psychological journey of his composition Dust Settled Down and the development issues of traditional culture to more than 50 students of the Confucius Institute. Alai pointed out that the cognitive process of unfamiliar culture is a process of constant error correction. Westerners once thought Tibetans looked like giant ants who were busy digging gold every day. There still exist numerous misunderstandings about Tibet. The same mistake took place again in the understanding of Latin America. One of Columbus’ retinues wrote in his book that there were claw-free birds and gold everywhere in Latin America, which aroused great desire by the Europeans and began the centuries-long colonial history in Latin America. These facts all tell us that, due to the limitations of history and cognition, advanced culture in one’s own conceit is habituated to demonizing and distorting other cultures, which results in estrangements of different cultures. Then Alai extended to his own literary creation. He pointed out that every writer should refrain from going with the tide, but try to explore their own understanding of society and history and create literary works based on their understanding. He once stopped writing for up to four years before the creation of Dust Settled Down to travel across every corner of Tibet so as to experience its cultural origins from within. In addition, Alai also shared his own views on the development of traditional culture. He said traditional culture is not and should not be unchanged. Just like the Chinese character “hua” which conveys the meaning of “change”, we should encourage the development of traditional culture in accordance with the current trends when the whole world is changing rapidly. Only in this way can a culture be alive and dynamic. He humorously illustrated that we cannot ask the descendants of the Incas to still live in the ruins of Machu Picchu when all others live in high-rise buildings. His literal and cultural views have been unanimously praised by the students of the Confucius Institute. They believe the problems discussed by Alai are not only problems in Tibet and China, but also common problems in Latin America. Alai’s views provide a new way of thinking and aroused great interest in Chinese literature.

Students of the Confucius Institute at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru asking for Alai’s autograph

On June 22nd, Alai gave literary lectures entitled “I’m Who Llosa Calls Alberto” in the Confucius Institute at Catholic University of Peru and the Confucius Institute at Ricardo Parma University of Peru on invitation, sharing his opinion of famous Peru writer and winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature Mario Vargas Llosa as well as his understanding of traditional Chinese culture with university students and literature enthusiasts of Peru. Alai’s lecture was vivid and full of witty remarks during which laughter and applause were often heard.

Alai at the Confucius Institute at Ricardo Parma University of Peru

During the lecture given in the Confucius Institute at Catholic University of Peru, Alai gave a brief but profound introduction to the background against which Llosa composed his novel The Time of the Hero. He praised that the book is an outstanding autobiographical novel and spoke highly of the writer for his observation and reflection of life, for his trait of daring to inspect himself and criticize himself and society. In the event organized in the Confucius Institute at Ricardo Parma University of Peru the next day, he further elaborated that, the creation of the character “Alberto” gives more meaning to the work. In a sense, Alai himself is “Alberto” in Llosa’s novel. Alberto is nicknamed “Poet” and when Alai in his younger time read about the character, he realized that so-called writers and poets are not an exceptional group, but come from the masses themselves as well. They also experience all the pain, happiness and hope that the masses experience. However, while experiencing those staff, they are courageous to reflect and express them through literature, which is also the responsibility a writer shoulders for the society. Alai also extended the spirit of Alberto's reflection to the “On seeing a man of virtue, try to become his equal”, “Every day I examine myself on three counts" and other traditional Chinese thoughts and cultural connotations advocated by Chinese sage Confucius. One by one, he explained those esoteric philosophies vividly as close to real life as possible, with humorous language, clear arrangements and profound analysis.

Alai communicating with local literary enthusiasts at the University of St. Thomas in Puerto Montt in Chile

Talking about cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, he demonstrated that in early stage of cultural exchanges, Chinese culture was mostly in the “bring in” situation. However, with the economic development and the establishment of Confucius Institutes worldwide, Chinese culture has started to go out globally in a confident way. "I came to South America from the other side of the Pacific Ocean. I talked about Pablo Neruda in Chile and Mario Vargas Llosa in Peru, for the reason that I do want to let the local people know that Chinese writers care about Latin American literature. Although China is far from Latin America, literature could bring our people closer. I hope that in the future both sides could translate better works." Alai hopes that more and more Latin Americans would come to the Confucius Institutes to study Chinese for the further understandings on Chinese literature and culture.

Under the central organization and coordination of the project “Lectures from Chinese Writers” of the CILARC, Alai has delivered 5 lectures in 4 Confucius Institutes of two countries this time and had several interviews with media from home and abroad. The activities were very successful and warmly welcomed by teachers and students at the Confucius Institutes and the local circle of literature and art. Famous writers, such as Liu Zhenyun, Xichuan and Maijia, etc., will be invited to the Confucius Institutes in Latin American countries and the Caribbean Region. They will take part in various literature activities held by the institutes, aiming to enhance the cultural reputation of the Confucius Institutes and actively promote the Chinese culture to the world.

(, Mexico City, June 24th)


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