Sunday November 27, 2016

Metaphors in Montreal - a David Gutnick documentary

  Best-selling Chinese author Xue Yiwei lives quietly in Montreal. The first of his books to be translated into English was published this fall by Linda Leith Publishing.

Best-selling Chinese author Xue Yiwei lives quietly in Montreal. The first of his books to be translated into English was published this fall by Linda Leith Publishing.

Listen 14:47

For the last fourteen years, Xue Yiwei has been living in a high rise apartment in the Montreal neighbourhood of Côte-des-Neiges. He's on friendly terms with his neighbours and the building maintenance staff. They have no idea who he is  - other than a very fit middle-aged guy who jogs through the cemetery and up round the cross at the top of Mount Royal.

And he likes it that way.

Xue Yiwei

Xue Yiwei is a best-selling writer of novels and short-stories, and is a celebrity in China. He lives quietly in Montreal; his first English-language book was published this fall. (Linda Leith Publishing)

Bring up the name Xue Yiwei in China and millions and millions of people, from professors to factory workers, know exactly who you are talking about. He is one of the country's best known and most celebrated writers. His novels and short story collections are bestsellers: contemporary classics. Ha Jin, the award-winning Chinese American writer has called Xue Yiwei a "maverick ...who stays alone and aloof, far from the restive crowds back in his homeland." Far indeed.

This fall in Montreal, his work is being published in English for the first time. The book of translated stories is putting the hard-won solitude of the writer in a bit of jeopardy.

Xue Yiwei

Xue Yiwei at Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly bookstore. His first book in English, Shenzheners, was translated by Darryl Sterk and published by Linda Leith Publishing. (Linda Leith)