Yu Hua (b. 1960 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China)

About the novelist Yu Hua
"Yu Hua was born in 1960 in
Zhejiang, China. He finished high school during the Cultural Revolution and worked as a dentist for five years before beginning to write in 1983. He has published three novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean. In 2002 Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to win the prestigious James Joyce Foundation Award. To Live was awarded Italy’s Premio Grinzane Cavour in 1998 and was named one of the last decade’s ten most influential books in China" [biographical information provided by the author's agent, JoAnne Wang Agency] ("To Live: Film Screening...").

"Yu was born in 1960 in the province of Zhejiang. After finishing high school during the Cultural Revolution, he worked as a dentist for five years, from the age of 18 to 23, “spending my most precious youth in examining people’s opening mouths.” Yu gradually became bored with his job and began to envy professional artists working for government-sponsored cultural centers because they did not  have to go to the office early and could always idle away time on the street. In order to escape from his job as a dentist, he began to write stories in 1983 and submitted them to literary journals around the country" (Xin Zhang).

Yu Hua on "the magic of writing"
"As Yu explained, he feels that the magic of writing is that it gives writers a chance to express emotions and desires in a fictional world that are usually not easily expressible through other means. Writing also makes it possible for writers to experience another life. Yu felt after he became a professional writer that his "true" life was becoming more and more routine and boring while the fictional world he created in his writing became increasingly exciting and rich. Yu talked about how his own understanding of writing has changed over time. In his early years of writing, he felt that the characters in his novels were just symbols whose personalities, emotions, and desires were all under the full control of the writer. Gradually, he felt that his characters began to gain a life of their own: once the writer creates the characters, they begin to have their own voices which the writer can no longer control. Along the same lines, Yu compared short stories and novels: characters in novels are more independent of the writer. Furthermore, novels are easier to escape from the writer's control, and compared to short stories they make it easier for the writer  to experience a different, fictional life. For these reasons too, novels have a much higher market value than short stories" (Xin Zhang).

Yu Hua on the movie To Live
"When it came to comparing his novel To Live and the movie that was adapted from it (released in 1994), Yu recalled the time in 1992 when he and the director Zhang Yimou discussed the adaptation. They actually started by working on another of Yu’s  novels.  However, after Zhang read the draft of To Live, he immediately became captivated by it. As Yu himself was also more confident about adapting this novel into movie script rather than their original choice, the two soon agreed to work on To Live. Personally, Yu said, he likes his novel better than the movie. One reason, according to Yu, arises from the age difference between Yu and Zhang. To Yu, who was only a child when the Cultural Revolution broke out, the Cultural Revolution is just a childhood memory and serves mainly as the background of his novel. On the other hand, to the older Zhang, the Cultural Revolution was a highly involved personal experience" (Xin Zhang; emphasis added).

See also:
"Translator's Afterword," by Michael Berry (237-245); "Author's Postscript," by Yu Hua (249-250); and backcover critical commentary included in HUM 210 edition of the novel To Live.
UCLA Center for Chinese Studies: "A Conversation with Yu Hua," by Xin Zhang (2003)
URL: http://www.international.ucla.edu/ccs/newsarticle.asp?parentid=5470
URL: http://www.international.ucla.edu/ccs/article.asp?parentid=5470
Asian Studies, Univ. of Notre Dame: Author Yu Hua to Discuss Book and Film (2003)
URL: http://www.nd.edu/~isla/ISLA/webpages/thearts/asianstudies/hua/