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[People] Ding Li, Shenzhen-made writer
Latest Updated by 2007-05-10 09:40:37

DING LI never imagined he would become a professional writer when he first arrived in Shenzhen in 1991.

Last month, his most recent novel "Fleeing the Market at the Peak II" (Gaoweichuju II) was the bestseller of the month in Chongqing. His next book "Professional Manager" will be available in stores across the nation later this year.

"The charm of Shenzhen lies not in the fact that people can make money in this robust city, but more in that it makes things happen," the writer said.

As a child, he had dreamt of becoming a politician. As a teenager he had hoped he would be recruited by the performing troupe in his hometown so that he could stay at home instead of going to rural areas during the "Cultural Revolution." At 19, he wanted to be a scientist, inspired by mathematician Chen Jingrun. When he came to Shenzhen in 1991, he wanted to be his own boss and make a fortune.

"The monthly salary of my wife and I added up to 250 yuan (US$32) back in Ma'anshan in Anhui Province. I subscribed to a periodical called Shenzhen Youth, and learned from the essays that the city is a nice place. After working for a Shenzhen company from some time, I decided I want to be my own boss."

In the 10 years between 1991 and 2001, when he published his first story in Fangcao, a literary journal, Ding worked as senior manager in big firms and also ran his own small businesses. He made some money by speculating on real estate in Hainan, but lost much of it after being cheated by a business partner.

When he was forced to resign from Jintian, a local real-estate company that went bankcrupt in 2001, Ding suddenly collapsed. He stayed in hospital for a week and bought a copy of Fangcao, a literary journal, to stave off boredom. In the periodical he read two stories written by woman writer Chi Li, and was quite impressed.

"She was writing about real life. I've also lived a rich and colorful life, through the ups and downs. Then, I decided to give it a try."

Ding calls himself lucky. "If the first story 'Remarriage' I sent to Fangcao was not published, I couldn't have been here. It encouraged me and I wrote 10 stories in a row," he said

"Remarriage" depicts the inside workings of the management of a listed company based on his own experiences and observations.

"I didn't have a high expectation for that. Like I've seen many people making a big fortune in Shenzhen in the past 10 years, but it's difficult for me to make it myself. I have friends who wrote a lot, read a lot and talked like a writer, but they have not published stories. I might have given it up completely if my first story was cold-shouldered."

Ding credited his achievements to a gift of storytelling inherited from his mother and a logical mind trained over years of being an engineer.

"My mother used to tell stories well. I myself attracted many listeners telling stories at the age of 6. I've also published many technical essays before writing novels, which trained my logical thinking."

In October 2002, when he was told that People's Literature, a prestigious Chinese literary journal, would publish a story of his, he quit his job at a local investment firm.

His novels have been mostly categorized as "business novels," as they deal with the inside stories of listed companies, stock markets, and financial investment. But Ding spends much time fleshing out his characters. He analyzes their motives clear-headedly, and tries to find the causes behind their success and failure.

The writer also addresses social problems in his novels, writing about the struggles and desires of white collar workers who make up a large part of the city's population.

"Besides the life I'm familiar with, I also find inspirations on the Internet and from social news in papers."

Another novel he will soon publish is about a mob boss who donated generously to charity.

"The world is not black and white, and a person has many sides. The story is based on a true case cracked by the Shenzhen police. When a person has too big a desire for fame and fortune that's beyond his capacity, he has to realize it by indecent means. Even in that kind of person, we can see the human sides of him and the traditional Chinese values like the love and fidelity for family and friends."

He is also working on a novel about an urban village head who witnesses the process of Shenzhen's transformation from a small fishing village to a modern metropolis.

A realistic and modest man, Ding says he cannot be compared to masters or other contemporary authors who have their own distinctive styles.

"I have not read much, and my early works can be kind of unsophisticated. I will rewrite and polish them in the next few years," he said.

His favorite authors are Lu Xun and Qian Zhongshu. "Both of them look at the world with a cold eye. They have the wits and broad minds to view life with humor at a distance."

"If my past failure and bitterness in the business world can be turned into a shelf of books, that's my biggest fortune. It's like non-performing assets become listed in the stock market and turn gold," he joked.

Editor: Wing

By:Li Dan Source:Szdaily web edition
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