2007.05.18: May 18, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - China: Writing - China: Shanghai Journal: Peter Hessler talks about time in his Fuling as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Special Report: China RPCV and Author Peter Hessler: 2007.05.18: May 18, 2007: Headlines: Figures: COS - China: Writing - China: Shanghai Journal: Peter Hessler talks about time in his Fuling as a Peace Corps Volunteer

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Peter Hessler talks about time in his Fuling as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Peter Hessler talks about time in his Fuling as a Peace Corps Volunteer

"Life in Fuling was challenging, but it was also very simple. We had no Internet, and there werenít many social outlets for two foreigners in a place like that. I was very focused on teaching, learning Chinese, writing, and exploring the city. That was my entire life. The isolation and peacefulness is the part that is hardest to remember now. There are times when River Town, the book, feels like interference in my memories. Not in the literal sense; I believe that the book is very accurate as to what it felt like to live in Fuling. Over the years, Iíve realized there are some mistakes in the book, and I feel like Iím a better writer now, technically. But Iíve never second-guessed the basic feeling of the book. Itís very accurate as to how the place felt to me, what life was like. " Author Peter Hessler served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China.

Peter Hessler talks about time in his Fuling as a Peace Corps Volunteer

An Interview with Peter Hessler

[Excerpt]

SJ: In _River Town_ you narrate the experience of being a "laowai" ("foreigner") in China. This was in 1996-7 when you lived in the town of Fuling on the Yangzi River. Given your subsequent experience of living in Beijing for several years, how do look back on your time in Fuling?

PH: Those were wonderful years. They were often very difficult, and it was very emotional. People who live in that situation understand the incredible range of feelings you go through Ė joy and frustration and anger, often within the same hour. It was wearing and I wouldnít have wanted to do it indefinitely. But there was never a time in Fuling when I wanted to leave, and I always believed that what I was doing was worthwhile. Life isnít always like that and Iím grateful for that time. I grew up a lot, because of the pressure and the isolation. I think I was technically a pretty good writer by the time I arrived, but there wasnít much depth to what I wrote. Somehow, the experience in Fuling changed that. Those years were inspiring but they were also deeply humbling, and that combination changed me as a person and as a writer.

Life in Fuling was challenging, but it was also very simple. We had no Internet, and there werenít many social outlets for two foreigners in a place like that. I was very focused on teaching, learning Chinese, writing, and exploring the city. That was my entire life. The isolation and peacefulness is the part that is hardest to remember now. There are times when River Town, the book, feels like interference in my memories. Not in the literal sense; I believe that the book is very accurate as to what it felt like to live in Fuling. Over the years, Iíve realized there are some mistakes in the book, and I feel like Iím a better writer now, technically. But Iíve never second-guessed the basic feeling of the book. Itís very accurate as to how the place felt to me, what life was like.

Still, this description of an intensely personal time has become very public. Iím asked to talk about it, and comment on it, and anybody with fifteen bucks can read about it. Sometimes it feels like a private moment that has been packaged for public use. Of course, I did the packaging; thereís nobody to blame but myself. And I donít regret the book for a moment. But it reminds me that with writing, you start with something intensely private, and then you put it out there, and after that you are no longer really in control. Itís a type of irony: I first wrote River Town as a way of preserving my memories, but as time passes the bookís impact makes those memories seem more remote, as if they belong to another person, a character in somebody elseís story.

Imagine what itís like for people who are written about! Adam Meier has always been incredibly generous and understanding with the book, and the way it made part of his life public. The people in Fuling have been positive; they seem proud of the book. Iím grateful to all of these people, but I sometimes feel guilty.



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Headlines: May, 2007; RPCV Peter Hessler (China); Figures; Peace Corps China; Directory of China RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for China RPCVs; Writing - China; Peace Corps Bibliography; Peace Corps Directory; Peace Corps History; Bulletin Board; Recent Peace Corps News





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Story Source: Shanghai Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - China; Writing - China

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