Book Talk: Novelist portrays dark underbelly of Chinese politics

Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:08am EDT
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By Sisi Tang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese author Wang Xiaofang, a former government official turned best-selling novelist, is a forceful advocate for democratization and staunch critic of Chinese contemporaries who he sees as too cozy with the establishment.

Since resigning as secretary to the deputy mayor of Shenyang city in northeastern China, Wang has written "officialdom" novels drawing on his Communist Party insider's experience to expose greed, intrigue, corruption and factional rivalry in the highly secretive and murky world of Chinese politics.

In "The Civil Servant's Notebook," his first book translated into English and due out next month, Wang, 49, skewers politicians reminiscent of Bo Xilai, the ousted politician at the center of China's biggest political scandal in two decades.

The Shenyang-based Wang, whose 13 novels have been widely pirated and have sold 3 million official copies, spoke with Reuters on the sidelines of the Hong Kong Literary Festival about Honore de Balzac and urine-drinking as a metaphor for absolute authority.

Q: What kinds of difficulties have you encountered in publishing your type of work in China?

A: "My fourth book, ‘The Mayor's Secretary,' made its rounds all over China in the search of an accepting publisher. I managed to get through to some publishers that would have frequent changes in management and editors so I can sometimes slip something through but even then, it would get rejected most of the time. I have not published for two years. I have four books waiting to get published. The environment has become more restrictive in the past two years.

"I stayed low profile in mainland China for a while. I don't publicize my work there. There's no TV series or film I can profit from. I have not received Chinese awards. They wouldn't dare make a film out of this, and they're not allowed to. In the beginning I received many threats, telling me to stop or they will chop off my hands. Some officials would look through my fictional work and say I'm writing about them and directly implicating them. They all look for themselves."

Q: How do you feel about the works of other Chinese writers? What's your reaction to Mo Yan being awarded the Nobel Prize?   Continued...