He Wei（Peter Hessler）, an American non-fiction writer, is renowned for his China Documentary Trilogy among Chinese readers. Having come to China in late 1990s, he taught in Fuling for two years and wrote his observation on Chinese society as an outsider. After leaving China for many years, he, together with his wife Leslie Chang and his twin daughters, came back here, a land of familiarity and strangeness, in 2019. He now teaches non-fiction writing at Pittsburg College of Sichuan University. Also, as a witness to the spread of the pandemic earlier this year, he published an article How China Controlled the Coronavirus on New Yorker, which triggered extensive discussion.
Why did he decide to return to Chengdu? What did he think of what happened in Danwei( a kind of administrative unit in China) and communities during the coronavirus epidemic? How did he look back on the written China stories in China Documentary Trilogy ? What did he feel about the significant changes taking place in China over these years? Why did he——who once concentrated on writing stories of nobody and ordinary people——now decide to write more about celebrities? And why did he accept the teaching job in Sichuan University instead of being a reporter?
In August, we came to Chengdu and had a conversation with He Wei for three hours. The interview has been divided into two episodes and the latter one will be broadcasted next week. These two programs will be available for both English and Chinese. The Chinese dubbing draft of these programs is translated by Li Xueshun, the translator of River Town, Strange Stones and Country Driving. And next week, He Wei will talk about his opinions on non-fiction writing and children’s education. Stay tuned.
02:18 On returning to Sichuan: for Sichuan cuisines, Sichuan dialect and connecting with the people there.
03:55 For establishing connections with people, I decided to be a teacher in Sichuan University instead of a reporter.
05:30 Banquets, Worldly Wisdom and Jielong with body temperature: about the experience in my Danwei.
07:00 I wrote an article for New Yorker about how China controlled coronavirus, because I think it's very important for Americans to see what happened here.
08:00 People in communities did a lot of intimate-contact tracing. They would help a lot with the epidemiologists who's directing the virus.
12:55 I became interested in China during my travel in Asia after leaving Oxford, so I decided to be volunteer in China.
18:00 Portraying life accurately in Fuling is all I can do. Because humor was part of their reality.
19:55 As a writer, to get rid of cliché and be respectful, it’s more important to analyze than to judge those people whom you are writing.
39:10 Having different sexual identities and ethnic groups, He Wei and his Wife Leslie Chang may write about Chinese from different perspectives.
43:45 An anecdote about Zhang Tonghe tells me that taking notes is an important part in our writing, because memories are unreliable.
50:47 It's important to write about ordinary people. But I think I probably should write about successful people as well.
Media worker and literary critic (Weibo ID: BeulahDong)
Former foreign media journalist and former PR in Alibaba
He Wei, or Peter Hessler
(born June 14, 1969) an American journalist, non-fiction writer and a staff writer in New Yorker who is the author of three books(River Town, Country Driving and genius Grant) about China
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power
By Robert A.Caro
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