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, Israel, Argentina, New Zealand, 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 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.