Chen Danyan was born in Shanghai in 1958. From 1978 to 1982 she studied Chinese Literature at the Eastern China Normal University. After her degree she worked as a reporter for the ´Children´s Epoch Magazine´. In 1972, Chen was published in ´Shanghai Youngsters´. Prose published in 1984 won her - among others - the Shanghai Young Writer´s Prize. In 1986, she began work on a theme new to Chinese literature, with short stories focusing on the experiences and feelings of adolescent girls.
With ´Beautiful Sun in Chilly Winter´ (1990), she wrote her first short story for teenagers. Several others followed, including ´Death of a Schoolgirl´, which was chosen as one of the world´s 100 best children´s books by the Japanese Association for Children’s Literature in 1991.
In her scrutiny of the emotional world of teenagers, Chen Danyan´s writings deal critically with China´s official ´one-child´ policy. China´s young generation, the products of single-child homes, was the topic of a radio talkshow run for three months on Shanghai Eastern Radio. A television series entitled ´Single Children´ was launched in 1996. Some 70,000 copies of her documentary book ´The Declaration of Single Children´, published in 1997, were sold on the Chinese mainland. This work was elected Bestseller of the Year.
She believes Shanghai, the ´Paris of the Orient´, is strongly influenced by European culture. Following a visit to Germany in 1992, she travelled throughout Europe, getting to know, as she puts it, the ´real´ Europe, which quite obviously differed from the mental picture she received from literature. She gave her impressions in numerous texts. A trip across the United States (1994) influenced her work, an example being the essay ´New York Holiday´, which she wrote in an Italian café in a small town in New Jersey.
Up until now only her novel ´A Girl´ has been translated into German. It won her the UNESCO Prize for Peace and Tolerance and was nominated for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (1996). The authoress´ autobiographical novel confronts her personal experiences during the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai in 1966, influenced by an atmosphere of fear and distrust.
Chen Danyan´s most recent work has a documentary character. Her ´Shanghai Memoir´, an essay on Shanghai published in 1998, was awarded China´s Bestseller Award of the Year. ´Shanghai Beauty´ was published in 2000. Danyan lives in Shanghai, is married and has a daughter.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)
Shanghai: China´s Bridge to the Future
Rhinebeck: New York
Yu he ta de zi xing che
Shanghai de jin zhi yu ye
Niuyue jia ri
New York Holidays
Nü zhong xuesheng zhi si
Yeqiang Chubanshe: Taibei
Death of a Schoolgirl
Fukutake Publishing Co.: Japan