Good news for the future of writers and intellectuals in China, for Xi Jinping has spoken. At an arts and culture symposium yesterday, President Xi addressed his concerns, suggestions, and hopes for the country’s writers, dancers, and scriptwriters. According to a Xinhua report, he specifically noted that artists should not “‘lose themselves’ in the country’s market economy and become its ‘slaves'”. Moreover, he also revealed his knowledge of literature by disclosing his favorite authors and their works.
In Xi’s two-hour talk, Guancha reports, the president reminisced about his youth, and how much he loved Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. On his first visit to Cuba, he specifically visited the locale where Hemingway wrote that novel, and on his second visit, he went to a bar Hemingway frequented and “ordered Hemingway’s favorite drink — rum with mint leaves and ice cubes”. We suspect he may have been referring to a Mojito. The report continued with the the lengthy reading list Xi had disclosed previously:
“…Krylov, Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Nekrasov, Chernyshevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Sholokhov, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Sartre, Montaigne, La Fontaine, Molière, Stendhal, Balzac, Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, George Sand, Flaubert, Alexandre Dumas (fils), Maupassant, and Romain Rolland… ‘Not to exaggerate, I read all the classic literary works I could find at that time’.”
With his stunning litany of high-brow European tastes, Xi also recalled reading The Red and the Black and War and Peace, and confessed that he likes Pushkin’s love poems and Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, and preferred Tolstoy over Dostoyevsky. He said he was overwhelmed by Hugo’s Les Misérables and Ninety-Three, and was a fan of Cézanne and Degas.
New additions to his list of authors include Byron, Shelley, George Bernard Shaw, Dickens, Goethe, Schiller, Heinrich Heine, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Jack London. Xi, evidently, reads rather a lot.
President Xi even met up with two internet authors and encouraged them to write more “works with positive energy”, and stressed that “cultural and artistic sectors in China should serve the people and socialism”. It seemed odd given the love of all that gloomy Russian and French stuff, he purports to be into. What were his thoughts on Being and Nothingness, Madame Bovary, The Social Contract, and Notes from Underground, we wonder?
Incidentally, a party newspaper published an entire page of Zhou Xiaoping, one of the two authors’ articles, titled “America’s Dream Breaks”, “Fly, Chinese Dream”, “Their Dreams and Our Flags”, and “Who will rule Russia Tomorrow?”.
As for his call for writers and artists not to befall slaves of market economy, netizens agree: “art and culture cannot be the market’s slaves, you already have a master!”