NABOKV-L post 0018351, Wed, 27 May 2009 19:20:27 -0400

Nabokov's English was stiff ...

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An unscripted life
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-27 09:06

Writer Yan Geling's list of admirers reads like a Who's Who of Chinese cinema, among them directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.

A former PLA dancer, Yan Geling started writing at 20 and is married to an American diplomat. Tashi Metok and Zhou Mi

The former People's Liberation Army dancer is best known for her work on Chen's Forever Enthralled (Mei Lanfang) and for Zhang's upcoming project 13 Girls in Jinling (Jinling Shisan Chai).

[ ... ]

"An American critic said (Russian-American writer Vladimir) Nabokov's English was stiff," she says disbelievingly, "but what's good about American English? It is plain water!"

Yan relates to Nabokov. It might be, she says, because both write in their second language, English, or because of their shared identity as outsiders or maybe because they both feel good about their oddities.

"Until his last days Nabokov lived in hotels. He was an outsider in Russia, Germany, France and America. Even his language has no home - but I think of him as a happy person who traveled around collecting his beloved butterflies every summer."

Yan admits to enjoying life as an outsider, even with its unexpected challenges.

[ ... ]

She has an uninhibited way of writing in English and cites an example of when she needed to describe a foot massage bowl. The expression "condomed bowl" sprang to mind, Yan's way of illustrating the thin hygienic plastic layer between the water and bowl.

She has re-written The Ninth Widow in English and plans to publish it next year. Typically, she is not fretting about the reaction of Western readers.

"I have never written a novel for the sake of publishing," she says. "I just feel happy when I'm writing it. When I finish it, I feel like an angel."

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