Linda Jaivin

I read about Linda Jaivin for the first time on a local magazine: she is an Australian translator form Chinese to English as well as a novelist, and her comic-erotic Eat Me (which I haven’t read yet) is a cult, I heard. She was supposed to be in Beijing this summer to present her latest work The Empress Lover. I was planning to attend the event, but then she had to cancel. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to interview her, so I sent her an email. Linda was really nice, and agreed on answering a couple of questions about her career, experience, dreams.

第一次见到琳达·贾佩林是在杂志的内页上:澳大利亚人,译者、小说家,其代表作《吃我》曾经是热门畅销书(事实上我正在读)。今夏,琳达本计划到北京推销她的新书《皇后的情人》,后因故取消,我也错过了和她在北京见面的机会。我对琳达本人特别感兴趣,于是我给她写了一封邮件,希望能采访她。没想到,琳达爽快地答应了我的要求,于是就有了以下我们的谈话:

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How did your adventure in literature begin?

As a reader! I’ve been a passionate reader since I was a young girl. I was a real bookworm as a child. I grew up in a small town, but because of books, my world was infinitely large. It encompassed the England of Dickens’ and Austen’s day, the American south of Harper Lee and William Faulkner and the speculative worlds of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. It’s not unusual – good writers are always big readers. When people say they want to be a writer but don’t like reading, they are saying, in effect, that they want to talk but don’t like to listen.

从事文学有什么机缘吗?

首先我热爱阅读,很小的时候我就对阅读非常感兴趣,可以算是个书虫。我是个小镇姑娘,但阅读大大地扩展了我的视野:从狄更斯、奥斯汀的英国到哈伯·李、福克纳的笔下的美国,再到雷·布莱伯利和以撒·阿斯莫夫的科幻世界。好的作家通常也是好的读者,如果有人说他希望成为一名作家,却又不喜欢阅读,他其实在告诉你,他喜欢说但不喜欢倾听。

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What brought you to China?

In university, I began studying Chinese history, initially as a bit of a lark. It became a passion, and then my major. By the time I finished university, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with my life, but I was sure of two things: it would involve books and writing, and it would involve China.

您怎么来到中国呢?

大学我开始学习国历史,半学半玩吧。渐渐地我爱上了中国历史,并把它作为自己的主修课程。大学毕业后我不太清楚自己想要干什么,但我能肯定我要做得事情和书有关,和中国这个国家有关。

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Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from life, from history, from politics, from reading, from overheard conversations, from uncomfortable secrets, from random meetings and unusual coincidences, from long walks and swimming. Inspiration is everywhere.

您写作的灵感是什么?

灵感来自与生活、历史、政治;来自于阅读,偶尔听到的人们的交谈,还有那些不能说的小秘密;人们偶尔的会面,不常发生的事件,漫无目的的闲散,甚至是从游泳中都能给予我灵感。

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What’s your daily routine when you are in the middle of writing a new novel?

Like all published writers I know, I treat writing like a profession and a job. I keep fairly regular hours – starting fairly early, usually between 6 and 8 am, taking breaks for meals and exercise, and knocking off around 6 or 7 at night. On weekends, the routine is a bit more relaxed, but I usually still put in at least six hours a day. Sometimes I work late, till 10 at night, say, but I don’t like to do that more than one or two nights a week. I read books and articles and essays relevant to the writing during the day, and ideally devote at least an hour to reading fiction in the evening. The process of writing includes, of course, editing and research. It’s impossible – for me, anyway – to just write for hours and hours and hours at a stretch. I also have to incorporate tasks like filing and doing taxes and correspondence into the working day. So it stays fairly varied. But I don’t socialise – no coffees or lunches out except when absolutely unavoidable. And no social media. Distraction is the enemy of thought. The most important thing is focus – when writing, I use the app called Freedom that takes me off the internet for whatever period of time I choose and won’t let me back on before the time is up without re-booting the computer. It’s fantastic. Jonathan Franzen and Zadie Smith are among the many other writers who use it.

你每天的写作生活是怎样的?

我把写作作为自己的职业,也是我的一份工作。我的写作日常生活十分规律:早上6点到晚上6、7点,至少会保持每天6个小时的工作时间;周末回宽松一点,有时候会工作到晚上,我尽量保持不熬夜写作。白天,我会阅读一些和写作有关的书籍、资料,晚上会读一些小说,因为写作会涉及到调研和编辑等功课。对我来说,一直伏案写作不太适合;我会在这中间做一些其他的事情,比如填写报税单、收发邮件等。我个人不太喜欢社交,能免则免;我也不太与媒体打交道,这些事情总是让人分心。我认为写作最重要的事情是要专注,我现在写作的时候会用一款’Freedom’的软件,它能帮助我专注于我的写作,不受网络的干扰,非常好用。其他的作家,比如强纳森·弗兰森、扎迪·史密斯都在用这款app。

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Who is The Empress Lover?

The Empress Lover could be any one of several of the characters of my novel The Empress Lover. It is Edmund Backhouse, the secretive and talented polyglot scholar and fantasist who left behind a ‘memoir’ claiming to have been the lover of Empress Dowager Cixi. But the phrase is also something greater than that, and part of the mystery of the book, which is a Chinese box of mysteries, one inside the other. So I let the reader work that out for him or herself.

《皇后的情人》是谁啊?

哦,他可能是《皇后的情人》这本书里出现的任何一个人;神秘的天才学者埃德蒙·巴克豪斯曾写了一本回忆录,声称他就是慈溪太后的神秘情人。但是我认为“皇后的情人”还包含了更多的信息,这也是我这本书讲述的秘密,我希望由我的读者去揭开这个谜底。

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Eroticism and the Orient are often featured in your work. Do you think the sex approach is different in the East and the West? 

Edward Said wrote perceptively about Orientalism – the notion, popularised in colonial times, of the feminised, sensual Orient and the virile West. You see some male writers today still unconsciously echoing these embarrassing cliches in fiction: handsome manly western man meets sensual Asian woman, blah blah blah. Human nature is far more complex and interesting than that. What the hell is the East and the West anyway? East of what? Is Australia part of the West? Sexuality within China is vastly heterogenous – and I dare say there are people in the middle classes of Shanghai, for example, who have more in common in their attitudes towards sexuality with the middle classes of London than they do with some of the poorer people in the mountainous regions of China. There is eroticism in all my work, whether it’s set in Australia, China or elsewhere because sex interests me. China and Japan feature in my work because they interest me.

在您的作品中经常会出现性欲和东方的话题,您认为东西方对于性的.

爱德华·萨义德对东方主义的观察和写作十分敏锐;东方主义这个名词起源于殖民地时期,东方主义充满了感性,西方主义则是充满了荷尔蒙。现在还有一些男性作家的作品还在重复老掉牙的桥段:帅气阳刚的西方男人遇到感性神秘的东方女人之类的。人性的特征要比这个复杂有趣多了,所谓的东方、西方指的到底是什么?东方的什么?澳大利亚属于西方吗?中国人对于性的观点非常多样化,我敢说上海一些中产阶级对于性的观点和伦敦中产阶层差不多,而与中国一些山区人们的观点则大相径庭。我的作品情境设置不管是在澳大利亚还是中国,一直有性欲的存在,因为我对性一直感兴趣,就像我对中国和日本比较感兴趣。

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How is it to be back home (in Australia) after having spent so much time abroad? What do you miss about China?

I love being in Australia – especially the pace of life, the beautiful blue skies, the coffee, the food, my friends and the literary and art scene. I miss the buzz of China, the sense that there is always so much going on, and my friends there. I miss the opportunity to see great Peking Operas (above are two photos from fusion Peking Opera, Passion, that I wrote with the composer Zhu Shaoyu, but has only ever been performed in part.) I miss the wonderful northern winters, courtyard living in Beijing, the snow, the sledding on Houhai. Mostly, I miss my friends.

在国外呆这么长时间回到澳大利亚感觉怎么样?你想念中国吗?最想念中国的哪些方面?

我爱澳大利亚,我爱这儿的一切:蓝天、咖啡、食物、我的朋友们,这儿的文学、艺术等。当然我也想念中国,中国的热闹,我在中国的朋友们;我尤其想念在北京看京剧的日子(上面是2张我与作曲家朱少宇(音译)合写的一部京剧的剧照,但这部剧只公演了一部分)和北京爽脆的冬天:那些独特的四合院,后海冬天的冰上活动。最重要的,我想念我的朋友们。

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I’ve just finished reading the book, and I found it very interesting. But I don’t want to tell you more – I’d rather hear what you think of it. I would just add it’s pretty naughty,  isn’t it?

就在刚才,我把《吃我》这本书看完了,想知道琳达在这里面写了什么有趣的故事吗?我就不剧透了,大家自己去看吧。

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Linda Jaivin e’ probabilmente una delle scrittrici più interessanti del panorama australiano. Dopo aver trascorso vari anni a Pechino studiando Cinese, ora e’ rientrata nel suo paese, e da li continua a raccontare storie ambientate in Cina e che hanno come protagonisti personaggi che vivono nell’era attuale e in un passato lontano, per noi difficile da immaginare. Io ho appena finito di leggere “The Empress Lover’ e l’ho trovato interessante e in un certo senso diverso da tutti i libri che avevo già letto sulla Cina. Lo trovate qui e vi consiglio di leggerlo tutto di un fiato e di farmi sapere che cosa ne pensate!

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When we took the pictures in this post I was delighted to wear:

我为本次访谈选择的搭配如下:

Silk night gown 晚装: Intimissimi

Pearl necklaces and ring珍珠项链、戒指: vintage 复古

Watch 腕表: Casio

Glasses 太阳眼镜: Jil Sander 

 

Pictures were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.

相机:索尼NEX-5T

For all the other pictures, special thanks to Linda Jaivin.

感谢Linda Jaivin为我们本次访谈拍摄的照片。

Chinese translation by Jasmine Wang.

中文翻译由王素馨提供。

 

 

 


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