Mao Dun Literary Prize winner Alai Talks about “From After the Dust Settles to The Song of King Gesar”
| 04/10/2017

On April 7th 2017, winner of the 5th Mao Dun Literature Prize Alai was invited to SUSTech to talk about his works, his vision and his experience as a contemporary writer and magazine editor.

SUSTech Chairwoman and Party Secretary Guo Yurong attended the lecture, as well as thirty middle school students from the Shenzhen Mingde Middle School, and professor Chen Yuehong, Director of the Center of Humanities and Social Sciences who presided of the lecture.

The Tibetan Alai is a contemporary writer from China and is one of the most internationally recognised in his field. He was the youngest author to be awarded the Mao Dun Literary Prize in 2000 for his novel Red Poppies (The Dust Settles – Chen’ai Luoding) . Other notable works include “The Song of King Gesar”, “Tibetan Soul: Stories” and many others which have charmed millions of loyal readers.

He takes on multiple roles as he is also editor for Science Fiction World, a monthly sci-fi magazine headquartered in Chengdu, Sichuan. With a circulation of 300 000 copies per issue and an estimated 3-5 readers per copy, the magazine claims over 1 million readers making it the world’s most read science-fiction periodical and helping the genre to become mainstream in China.

During the lecture, Alai spoke from the heart, and in good humour. He told the audience about his experience as a young man: “I was a working in the mountains on water and electricity infrastructure. One day the local village leader told me that the college entrance examinations were re-opening. I borrowed a friend’s bike and cycled more than 50 kilometres to register in the closest town.” He went on to share anecdotes about his younger years, explaining how being born in a small village limited his scope considerably. It wasn’t until he graduated from school that he discovered the depth of classical and contemporary literature.

He went on to talk about the challenges of being a contemporary writer in China, challenges rising from himself as well as his surroundings. During the late 80’s and early 90’s he explains how he was being published but felt an emptiness inside, his writings not satisfying his ambition and hunger, and ended up taking a long break from writing. It was finally in 1994 that he resumed, and started working on his most famous After the Dust Settles novel, the work which won him international recognition.

He also discussed the difficulties he faced from the writing industry, telling how the top magazines from Beijing, Shanghai and Sichuan would praise his writing style but point out the limited commercial potential of his works. He said it was a shame that bookshops now offered very limited options in terms of literature and that most of what was on offer would be a waste of time for young readers to read. According to him, this was a major decision-making factor in working on his own magazine.

The lecture ended with a question and answer session where Alai and the audience exchanged on various topics of interest, as well as a book-signing session, lasting over two and a half hours instead of the initial 90-minutes!

2017, 04-10

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