Zhang Jie

Article Works Projects www
post-colonialism, women
Written and spoken word (general)
Asia, Eastern
created on:
April 28, 2005
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since December 21, 2007. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Zhang Jie
Zhang Jie, Copyright: Unionsverlag


ARTIST STATEMENT/ POSTCARD PROJECT OF THE HOUSE OF WORLD CULTURES 2007 ´The one question that I cannot find an answer for is: Why is life so uncontrollable. When a life is about to enter this world or to depart from it, has anybody asked if she/agreed to it? For example, 12,000 years ago when the Eastern African continent erupted, did anyone ask the monkeys whether they preferred to evolutionize into humans on the East side or the West side? Although humans can choose suicide as a method to leave this world which makes us appear to be in control, it is in essence a manifestation of an intolerance of the torture in this world.´ Zhang Jie was born in Peking, China, in 1937. She was the daughter of an elementary school teacher and grew up without a father. Contrary to her hopes, she was assigned a degree-course place in Planning Studies rather than Literature at the People’s University of Peking.
After concluding her studies in 1960, she worked for almost 20 years at the ministry of industry for mechanical engineering. Because she was the daughter of a "right winger", she was forced to participate in re-educational measures at a special school from 1969 to 1972. It was at this time that she also began to write. Only after the Cultural Revolution (1966–67) did she publish her first story "Die Musik der Wälder" (transl.: "Music of the Forests", 1978), which won the national prize for best short story. In 1979 she received the national literature prize for "Who knows how to Live". In the same year she became a member of the Chinese Association of Writers. In 1980 she joined the Chinese Communist Party. She has worked as a freelance writer since 1982. In the same year her novel "Leaden Wings" appeared in the German translation. In 1984 for "The time is not yet ripe" she received the literature prize of the renowned magazine Beijing wenxue. In 1985 she participated in the Horizonte-Festival in Berlin and in 1987 received a scholarship to write and reside in Vienna for six months. Thereafter she traveled extensively in Europe and held numerous readings. For "Zwei Liebeserzählungen" (transl.: "Two Love Stories") she received the Malaparte Literary Prize.

In her stories the author reflects on the radical changes brought about by modernization, and especially on how life has changed for women in her country. Characteristic of the way her writing has developed is the change from the gentle lyrical voice of her first stories to a cruder tone, which even sounds satirical when thematizing the various manifestations of the phenomenon of power. Her most recent publication was the novel "Abschied von der Mutter" (transl.: "Farewell to the Mother"), which is about the last months Zhang Jies spent with her mother. The author herself calls the novel "a love story between mother and daughter," – at the same time it is a critical mirror image of the social changes in China. The author is one of her country’s best-known writers. Today she lives in Peking and works for the Chinese Writers’ Association.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)


She Knocked at the Door

Published Written,
Novel. Long River Press: San Francisco

As Long as Nothing Happens, Nothing Will

Published Written,
Short Stories. Virago: London

Leaden Wings

Published Written,
Novel. Virago: London

Love Must Not Be Forgotten

Published Written,
A collection including: Emerald - The time is not yet ripe - An Unfinished Record - Under the Hawthorne - Who Knows How to Live - The Ark. China Books & Periodicals: San Francisco


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Postcard Project

(01 March 07 - 31 December 08)

China - Between Past and Future

A project on contemporary art in China

(24 March 06 - 14 May 06)


International Festival of Literature Berlin