New York Times interviewed, 9-th April 2014, Lulu Wang:Why in Dutch?


By William Grimes

1. Why did you go to the effort of learning Dutch, and writing in Dutch, when you already knew English, and the number of English-speaking readers is much larger than the Dutch audience? Was this just a series of small accidents? That is, you were invited to teach in Maastricht, then you wrote a small article in Dutch, then the newspaper asked you to write more, then you decided you wanted to write fiction.

Lulu: I wanted to go to an English-speaking country badly, but I did not have a chance. When I got a contract to teach at a college in Maatricht, the Netherlands, I planned to start a study for the PH.D degree in the Great Britain after a year saving money by working in Maatricht.

Shortly after my arrival in Maatricht I fell in love with the Dutch language because of a Dutch author Annie M. G. Schmidt. I thought that the Dutch language was as beautiful as she wrote. That was why I decided to stay in this country to learn to write in this language.

Now, after 26 years, I do not know if that was a good decision. First of all, the Dutch language is not used widely in the world. Because of its limited number of writers and readers, Dutch could and can not evolve so quickly as English, French, German and other world-languages. Secondly, this country is rather small and commercial-minded, culture does not have a broad basis of support as in some bigger countries, which are interested in much more aspects than in commerce. Thirdly, the Netherlands, unlike some bigger countries, does not have the tradition that many foreign writers use this language to enrich it. The attitude of the Dutch literary critique for foreign writers who experiment full of love and passion with this language is not always open-minded, which does not stimulate foreign writers to contribute to enriching the language.

This is what I discovered years after I started learning this language and writing in it. Nevertherless, I do not regret writing in Dutch. If there is only one writer left in the world to write in Dutch, I will be that one. I love the Netherlands and her language because they have become part of me.

Second: Are there things you can say in Dutch that you cannot say in Mandarin? That is, are there any advantages to writing in Dutch, does it free you in any way?

Lulu: Compared with the China that I knew, the Netherlands is a free and open-minded country. This gives me much space to write and to grow as a open-minded person. I am grateful for it. Lots of things that would make me shy to express in Chinese, I can write in Dutch. Yes, Dutch made me free in many aspects.

Finally, do you in any sense regard yourself as a Dutch writer? If circumstances were different, would you prefer to be writing in mandarin?

Lulu:Yes, I regard myself as a Dutch writer. I wrote from my 22 years of age in Chinese and won a Chinese prise for prose when I was 24 years old. Now I write again in Chinese. I love writing in Chinese too. I write in both languages.

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