Campus News

‘Inspector Chen’ author shares reasons for writing

During a Feb. 8 visit to UGA,  author, poet and translator Qiu Xiaolong shared the circumstances of his upbringing and how the Cultural Revolution influenced his writing.

Qiu said that while his father was in the hospital, he had to write confessions for him for the Red Guard. That experience gave him the confidence to write.

“I want to open a window for people to look into contemporary China,” Qiu said. “It’s also my way of coming to terms with change, because China has been changing so fast.”

Qiu was on campus to give the 2018 Betty Jean Craige Lecture. Part of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts’ Global Georgia Initiative, the lecture also was designated a Spring 2018 Signature Lecture.

Qiu has published nine mystery novels, two volumes of poetry, a collection of short stories and three translated volumes of Chinese poetry. His mystery novels follow Chief Inspector Chen Cao, and the first novel in the series, Death of a Red Heroine, received the 2001 Anthony Award.

“I did not begin to write a mystery novel,” Qiu said. “I just wanted to write a novel about China and the Chinese society in transition. I found that the mystery novel could provide a very convenient framework for what you want to say.”

Qiu’s Inspector Chen series has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 20 languages. BBC Radio broadcasts the series, and a French graphic novel has been created.

“For my Inspector Chen books, I want to write about why and how people could have become murderers in what kind of social, cultural, historical circumstances,” said Qiu, who read excerpts from Shanghai Redemption, the most recent novel in his Inspector Chen series, as well as from Poems of Inspector Chen and Voices of Red Dust. 

“From the very beginning, he is a character of contradiction,” Qiu said of Inspector Chen’s popularity with readers. “On the one hand, he doesn’t want to do the job. On the other, it is always good for a cop to have a different perspective. Readers can read a mystery and take a trip to China.”

The Betty Jean Craige Lecture is named for the University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center. A teacher, scholar, translator and writer, Craige has published 17 books in literature, politics, arts and the history of ideas.

Qiu’s visit was co-sponsored by the comparative literature department and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. The Global Georgia Initiative  presents global problems in local context with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene. The series is made possible by the support of private individuals and the Willson Center Board of Friends. The Signature Lecture series highlight campus talks by some of the world’s most prominent thought leaders.