Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chenxi en francais!

THIS is very exciting!
I remember when I lived in France, over ten years ago now, in the countryside just outside of Bordeaux, I was desperate for any books in English, and there was only one English-language bookstore in town. One day I went in there and asked if they had any books by Australian authors, being a Penguin bookstore, I assumed that this would be a reasonable enough request. The shop assistant told me that she was sorry that not only were there none, she wouldn't be able to order any in for me either. She explained (and I will never forget this) that English and European readers weren't really very interested in Australian stories.
I was gobsmacked. And unfortunately way too timid back then to let her know all the indignant thoughts that were whirling around in my head. Is there even such a thing as an Australian story, for goodness sakes? Isn't the very act of storytelling universal, whatever culture or setting becomes its background?!
Anyway, as the old saying says, don't get mad, get even. I wish I could find that bookseller now...


  1. LOL. If i were an austrailian author, i would have went Blade on her ass. Haha.

    I've also read your book Chenxi and the Foreigner. It's was a little confusing looking your book up online, as in the book i read, your main female role was named Helen and not Anna.

    I do have one burning question... Does she keep the baby?

  2. Hi Shapeshift,
    Nice to hear from you. In fact the version you read is a much earlier version, originally published in 2002. There is a more recent version available - with a very different ending!

  3. Ops, I forgot to recieve replies from this post :/

    I'll be on the look out for the recent verson. I loved Chenxi, even though I never really understood him much... I feel like I dreamt of him one night, no one in my dream said his name or anything, but I knew it was him and his friend. Who's also in the book, but I can't remember it at the moment, starts with an L, Lao Ling? Sorry I can't remember :/

  4. Oh, that makes me very happy - to think that my characters could invade your dreams. :-)
    His Chinese friend is called Lao Li. Laurent is the French man.
    If you email me your postal address, I'll post you a signed copy of the new version. My email address is: sallyrippin@optusnet.com.au

  5. Haha! They did! I just knew it was them. Lao Li! Yesyesyes! I was close *shifts eyes* Yeah, I remember Laurent (the stoner), the french student that studied near Helen/Anna's Art school. I didn't like him too much to start with, then he turned out to be a pretty nice guy.

    Oh, really? That would be great! Thank you so much. I'll contact you via email. Oh, I do live in New Zealand, would that be a problem?

  6. Not at all. It would be my pleasure Shapeshift. Look forward to getting your email.

  7. hey :)

    like shapeshifter i read the earlier version of Chenxi and the Foreigner and didnt know till recently that there was a different version.

    just one question, why two different versions?


  8. Hi Rach,

    Thanks for your question.

    The second version of Chenxi and the Foreigner was published quite a few years after the first one was written and with a new publisher. My new publishers gave me the opportunity to rewrite some areas that I was no longer happy with and also encouraged me to put some of the more controversial material back in.

    When I first wrote the novel, in my early twenties, I took out the sex and swearing because I was worried that parents and teachers might stop this book from getting into the hands of my young adult readers. I was also worried about including too much about the Tiananmen Square protests for fear of getting my Chinese friends into trouble as it was still quite close to the event.

    Now, many years later, I feel comfortable putting these things back in and I am much happier with the novel. And as it turns out, the new version has now sold into several other countries which I hope means that other people also feel it is a much better book.

    Now, I have a question of you: did you read the first version at school? How old were you?


  9. hey :)

    thanks for the reply! i understand what you mean, yet its almost ironic that you were writing a book which talked about aspects of freedom, yet you yourself also didnt have full freedom, or were constricted in a way when expressing the story.well thats just a thought anyways. i love that you wrote another edition (which i will read ASAP). i cant wait to see the differences :)

    i cant remember exactly how old i was when i first read Chenxi and the Foreigner, proably around 15/16. i picked up the book at a book fair that was part of a school trip and later did a report on it. i just re-read it a few days ago, hence the research into the other editions.

    Thanks again :)

  10. Thanks Rach - I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the new version. Your comment about the irony of feeling restricted while writing about artistic freedom is spot on - and I mention this in the afterword of the new version.
    Thanks for your interest.