A Q&A with Wang Anyi

by  Ping Zhu

Wang Anyi

Q: Would you like to be called a “woman writer” or just a “writer”?

A: When I was young, I didn’t like the title “woman writer”; but now I’ve accepted it, because that is what I am.


Q: Which is your favorite period of Shanghai? 

A: I grew up and live in Shanghai, so it is a place I cannot view objectively. Because my experiences are connected to Shanghai, it is more about which period of my life, rather than which period of Shanghai, that I like most. In the 1980s, I was young, but there were a lot of problems in my life. Now I live a comfortable life, but I’m no longer young.


Q: It seems that the longtangs in your works represent not only the unique urban layout of Shanghai but also its complex history. Are the longtangs both spatial and temporal? 

A: Novelists are not responsible for reality. The longtangs are a stage I set up for my fictional characters. Whether the longtangs are temporal or spatial, they are theatrical.


Q: What constantly drives you to break through your limits so you can produce works with different styles?

A: My love for imagination and words. I don’t think I’ve had breakthroughs; I just keep writing day by day.


Q: Which work have you read the most? 

A: Dream of the Red Chamber.

Ping Zhu is associate professor of Chinese literature at the University of Oklahoma and the acting editor in chief of the biennial literary journal Chinese Literature Today. She is the author of Gender and Subjectivities in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Literature and Culture. She has co-edited Maoist Laughter and Feminisms with Chinese Characteristics.