Meet the author: Zhang Yueran

Wed 13.03.2024
20:00 - 21:30


meet the author


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in english

Meet the author

The meetings with writers at Passa Porta, prepared with passion, courage and thoroughness, are more than simply the presentation of literary works. We seek to achieve a genuine connection between writer and reader, and among readers themselves.

Go to overview

The young Chinese writer Zhang Yueran broke through internationally with her major novel Cocoon (2023). Junot Diaz and Ian McEwan have already expressed their admiration, and the Dutch-language press, too, has been rather laudatory in its acclaim. Although Zhang Yueran will be working on a new book in Brussels, she will also take some time out to talk to us.

The Cultural Revolution cast a long shadow over Chinese history and a lot of writers have dealt with it in their novels. Zhang Yueran was born later, of course, and therefore didn’t live through this violent era herself, but she and her generation still feel its weight and in Cocoon, a novel that Ian MacEwan has called ‘a beautiful and formidable achievement on the grandest scale’, she illustrates it masterfully.

A young woman in her thirties, Li Jiaqi returns to her native village to care for her ailing grandfather. While there, she seeks out her childhood friend Chen Gong, eighteen years after their last meeting. She is determined to have a long talk, to face the secrets that bind their families together and lay them to rest.

The two friends recount how their lives have evolved since they were 11, and inevitably their stories are tied to those of their parents and grandparents, exposing the traumas from a past they didn’t experience themselves but which continues to haunt the younger generation as well.

Zhang Yueran ingeniously builds up her story and ensures that the reader, along with the main characters, gradually discovers why they drifted apart, the impact the past has had on their lives and the depth of the wounds they have been carrying with them for generations. At the same time, it becomes clear that the story of these two friends mirrors the experience of countless others.

Journalist and China expert Catherine Vuylsteke will talk to Zhang Yueran about the themes she covers in her books. A unique opportunity to meet an internationally respected and acclaimed author from a country we still know too little about.

about the author

Zhang Yueran (1982) is een van de invloedrijkste Chinese schrijvers van deze tijd, van wier werk steevast honderdduizenden exemplaren zijn verkocht. Na een paar romans en verhalenbundels is De spijker haar internationale doorbraak. De verhalenbundel Tien liefdes verscheen in 2020 in het Nederlands, en vorig jaar volgde de roman De spijker, die werd bekroond met de Prix Transfuge voor de beste Aziatische roman en stond op de shortlist van de Prix du meilleur roman étranger.

about the moderator

Catherine Vuylsteke (b. 1964) is a writer, journalist and documentary maker. She studied sinology in Ghent and has written foreign reports for De Morgen, De Standaard, Knack and Mo Magazine, among others. She is the author of several books, including Volksrepubliek van Verlangen (People’s republic of desire) and Het gewicht van Hemelse Vrede (The weight of heavenly peace). She lives in Brussels.

She is in Brussels working on a new book, but in between takes time to participate in the Made in China festival in Ghent and to climb our stage.

Org. Passa Porta

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