Writing Between Two Languages

An interview with Chinese novelist Xie Hong – Sun Jicheng

Ed: Xie Hong is an award-winning Chinese author and poet, currently living in Shenzhen. Originally from Guangzhou, he graduated from East China Normal University with an economics degree, then studied English at the Waikato Institute of Technology in New Zealand. He began writing poetry in 1985, but turned his attention to prose fiction in 1993. His first English novel, Mao’s Town, was published in 2018, recounting the effects of the Mao era on a small Chinese town as seen through the eyes of a small boy. His translator, Sun Jicheng, talked to Xie Hong (in Chinese) for us about his life and work.

Sun Jicheng: You are one of the few Chinese novelists who write in English. Why did you decide to write in English?

Xie Hong: It was mainly due to my English-speaking environment. After moving to New Zealand, I decided to study English again, which I had not used for many years. In addition, in 2014, translators such as [yourself] began to translate my short stories to English. Dr. Kong Ruicai, the critic, encouraged me to write in English. He said that there were examples of successful Chinese writers, such as Ha Jin, who did this. At first I thought it was a joke, but then I really tried it.



Short fiction by Xie Hong – translated by Ding Yan and Ray Hecht

Wu Ming and Liu Xiang chatted while walking along the pedestrian line to cross the road. A taxi drove past quickly, and they both waved for it to stop just before it was too late.

The driver must have seen them out of the corner of his eye, and he braked hard, but the car slid past quite a distance before it came to a complete stop.

Wu Ming grabbed his wife Liu Xiang and the two ran towards the taxi. Losing her balance, Liu Xiang almost fell. “What’s the rush?” she grumbled.

Wu Ming slowed down after that. As they strode toward the taxi, a woman with a child waiting at a bus stop caught his attention, and he froze: The woman was none other than Liu Qing.