SHANGHAI INSPIRATION FOR VISITING WRITERS | Yao Minji
Ten writers from around the world are in Shanghai for two months to discuss all facets of the writing craft and to be inspired by new experiences. The 9th Shanghai Writing Program, hosted by the Shanghai Writers’ Association, aims to add a different perspective to writers’ views of the world in general and of China in particular. This year, the writers in residence, who come from Spain, Denmark, Poland, Russia and the United States, are from all walks of life. They include an artist, a corporate manager, a teacher and a police officer, most of whom write as a sideline. For some, it was their first trip to Asia. Yao Minji asked six of the participants to share their journey to becoming a writer, their favorite themes and subjects, and their impressions of Shanghai, among other topics.
NÚRIA AÑÓ, SPAIN
Q: Do many Catalan authors write in the Catalan language? What about you? Do you write in both Spanish and Catalan or only in Catalan?
A: Many Catalan writers do write in Catalan. In my case, I write in Catalan because it’s my mother tongue and I feel more comfortable when it comes to selecting words. But depending on the topic, I do also write in Spanish.
In the end, languages are only a tool for communication. I use my writing to discuss socially relevant subjects, to inform and to condemn injustices. Most of my characters are antiheroes and they are probably the most important in my work.
Q: Why antiheroes?
A: I prefer to be on the side of losers, the misunderstood or lonely people rather than writing about the strong and powerful.
Q: You are currently working on a biography of Salka Viertel. Tell us what it is about this actress and screenwriter that drew you to write her biography?
A: As I learned about her, I saw just how fascinating a woman she was. In the 1930s, she was well known as a specialist on scripts for Greta Garbo, but she is much more than that.
In exile in California she created a salon that welcomed many prominent European artists, composers, film and theater directors, actors, physicians and writers who emigrated to the US, fleeing Nazism. Her house was a shelter for intellectuals, and this is what attracted me. And I love cinema and classic films, and appreciate other women’s lives.
Q: Do you consider Salka Viertel an antihero?
A: Yes, as a Jewish woman in exile in the 1930s, she is an antihero.
In Europe, she was an actress who had to leave her work and dreams. When her husband’s contract expired, she had to learn English and support him and the family for many years.
Her work as a screenwriter was closely associated with Swedish actress Greta Garbo, so much so that when Garbo retired from the silver screen, it meant the end for Viertel as well.
Núria Añó was born in Lleida, North East Spain, in 1973. She is a Catalan/Spanish writer, a translator and a regular speaker at conferences and symposia, where she gives papers on literary creation, films, cities or authors like Elfriede Jelinek, Patricia Highsmith, Salka Viertel, Karen Blixen, Alexandre Dumas or Franz Werfel at University of Lleida (UdL), Tunis University, University of Jaén (UJA), International University of Andalucía (UNIA), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC-Madrid), Sysmän Kirjasto Library in Finland, Shanghai Writers' Association (SWA), Fudan University in China, East China Normal University, Sinan Mansion or Instituto Cervantes in Shanghai.
Her first story was published in 1990. Other short stories and essays were published in anthologies such as Dones i literatura a Lleida (1997); VIII Concurs de Narrativa Literària Mercè Rodoreda (1997); Estrenes (2005); Escata de drac (2012); Des lettres et des femmes... La femme face aux défis de l'histoire (2013); Fábula (2013); Grief (2014); Resonancias (2014); Les romancières sentimentales: nouvelles approches, nouvelles perspectives (2014); Letralia, Year XXI (2016); Cien años del Genocidio Armenio: Un siglo de silencio (Editarx, 2016); Revista Narrativas, no. 43 (2016); L'art de l'adaptation: féminité et roman populaire (University of Lleida, 2016); April Issue, Nebula (2017) and in Cine y Literatura. 21 años de Letralia (2017).
Her novel Els nens de l'Elisa [Elisa's Children] was third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature and was published in 2006. L'escriptora morta [The Dead Writer], in 2008; Núvols baixos [Low Clouds], in 2009, and La mirada del fill [The Son's Gaze], in 2012. She is currently finishing a biography of screenwriter Salka Viertel, a Jewish salonnière and well-known in Hollywood in the thirties as a specialist on Greta Garbo scripts.
The short story 2066. Beginning the age of correction, written in Catalan, was published in the European magazine Cafébabel and translated into Spanish, French, English, Italian, German, Polish and Chinese. Presage is also published in the American literary journal When Women Waken.
Her writing focus on the characters' psychology, generally antiheroes. The characters are the most important in her books, much more than the topic, due to "an introspection, a reflection, not sentimental, but feminine". Her novels cover a multitude of topics, treat actual and socially relevant problems such as injustices or poor communication between people and frequently, the core of her stories remains unexplained. Añó asks the reader to discover the "deeper meaning" and to become involved in the events presented. Read more
Literary Prizes/ Awards:
2017. Awarded at the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Sweden.
2016. Awarded at the Shanghai Writing Program, hosted by the Shanghai Writer's Association.
2016. Awarded by the Culture Association Nuoren Voiman Liitto to be a resident at Villa Sarkia in Finland.
2004. Third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature.
1997. Finalist for the 8th Mercè Rodoreda Prize for Catalan Short Stories.
1996. Awarded the 18th City of Almenara Joan Fuster Prize for Fiction.