#86: 何伟和他的中国三部曲

何伟

中国人常常把外国人称作“老外”。我觉得这是一个很有趣的词语。“老”表示亲切,就像“老李”、“老王”一样;但“外”这个字,却又体现出了一种距离感。这个距离感,来自语言、文化和思维方式。不过,无论哪一种障碍,都会被一种东西所打破,这就是爱。

有一位“老外”,他比很多中国人更加了解中国。他就是美国人Peter Hessler何伟。出于对中国的好奇,1996年,何伟来到四川的一个小镇——涪陵——教英语。一开始,他很不习惯这里的生活。因为这里和他在美国的故乡有很大的区别。这里的环境很喧闹,人和人的关系也不一样,特别是同事之间的关系。但是慢慢地,他试着和当地人交朋友,走进他们的生活,了解他们真实的想法。于是,他就把这段故事写下来,叫做River Town《江城》,作为对这段日子的纪念。

离开涪陵以后,何伟在北京工作。因为工作的关系,他开始更加全面地了解中国。他对甲骨文产生了兴趣。他访问了考古学家和语言学家。在这个过程中,他听到一个人的名字——陈梦家。这是一位科学家,他在文革中受到了迫害。这段故事非常感人,何伟就把它写了下来。与此同时,何伟和他以前的学生保持着联系。在中国经济快速发展的背景下,西部的年轻人离开家乡,来到东部沿海城市寻找机会。一方面,他们的生活变得更好了;但另一方面,他们远离家乡,努力地去融入当地的社会。在北京,何伟认识了一位维吾尔族朋友,叫波拉特。他不喜欢国内的环境,千方百计移民去了美国。可到了美国之后,却同样遭受了失望,最后还是在华人餐馆里工作。何伟把这些平凡却又典型的故事写成了第二本书The Oracle Bones《甲骨文》。

之后,何伟拿到了中国驾照,开始了一段在高速公路上的冒险故事。中国的城市化和工业化,对农村产生了特别大的影响。有一些地方艰难地跟上了社会的发展;还有一些地方却被人忘记。有些人选择留在农村,通过改变自己来适应变化;还有一些人选择离开农村,来到城市寻找机会。何伟来回于中国的农村和城市,南方和北方,把他的细心观察总结在这本Country Driving《寻路中国》当中。

何伟的书,没有强烈的偏见,而是充满了理解和包容。即使是中国人来读他的书,都会有很多惊喜和感动。如果你想更多地了解中国,何伟的中国三部曲值得一看。

He Wei and His Chinese Technology.

Chinese people often call foreigners “old outsider”. I think this is a very interesting word. “Old” means cordial, like “Old Li”, “Old Wang” ; but, the word “outside” reflects a sense of distance. This sense of distance comes from language, culture and way of thinking. However, no matter what kind of barrier, there is a way around it, this is affection.

There is a “foreigner”, who, more than many Chinese people, understands China. He is the American Peter Hessler, He Wei. Out of curiosity for China, in 1996, He Wei came to a small town in Sichuan – Fuling – to teach English. At first, he was not used to life there. Because Fuling, and his hometown in the United States, are very different. The environment there was noisy, and the relationship between people was not the same, especially the relationship between colleagues. But slowly, he tried to make friends with the locals, got into their lives, and understood their real thoughts. So he wrote this story called “River Town”, as a memorial to these days.

After leaving Fuling, He Wei worked in Beijing. Because of his work, he began to more fully understand China. He developed an interest in the Oracle bones. He interviewed archaeologists and linguists. In this process, he heard about a man – Chen Meng Jia. He was a scientist who was persecuted in the Cultural Revolution. This story is very touching, He Wei wrote it down. At the same time, He Wei and some of his previous students maintained contact. In the context of China’s rapid economic development, young people in the west left their hometowns and came to the eastern coastal cities to find opportunities. On the one hand, their lives became better; but on the other hand, they’re far from home, trying to integrate into the local community. In Beijing, He Wei met a Uyghur friend, called Borat. He didn’t like the domestic environment, and did everything possible to emigrate to the United States. Once arriving in the United States, he was still unhappy and very disappointed, and finally found work in a native Chinese restaurant. He Wei put these ordinary but typical stories into his second book “The Oracle Bones”.

After that, He Wei got a Chinese driver’s license and started an adventure story on the highway. China’s urbanization and industrialization have had a particularly large impact on rural areas. There are some places that have kept up with the development of society; there are some places that have been forgotten. Some people choose to stay in the countryside, and changed themselves to adapt to change around them; while others choose to leave the countryside and go to the city to find opportunities. He Wei drove back and forth in China’s rural and urban areas, the Southern area and the North. His careful observations are summed up in the book “Country Driving”.

He Wei’s books have no strong prejudice, and are full of understanding and tolerance. Even when Chinese people read his books, they are surprised and moved. If you want to know more about China, He Wei’s Chinese trilogy is worth a look.

Carmel James (carmeljames7@bigpond.com)

11 Comments

  • Peter Hessler JrZEKEY

    lololololololololololololoololololololoololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololollol⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️????⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️???????????????????????

  • Peter Hessler

    WATERMELONS R AWSOME LEBRON JAMES.TURTLE ONIONS!

  • Tyrone lau

    What are those?watermlons

  • Emily

    Thanks so much for this podcast! This is my first time listening to Slow Chinese, and I was excited that the topic was Peter Hessler, one of my favorite authors. Country Driving is my favorite.

    This site is a wonderful resource – thanks for the good work you do.

  • Nancy Wang

    我看过他第一本书,听完这个podcast以后,我一定想马上就看其它的两本。谢谢你!

    • 他的书很棒,我是一口气读完三本的。我最喜欢《甲骨文》,你快去买来看!

  • Julie

    谢谢! 我很憙欢慢速中文!

  • 何偉寫的《甲骨文》中文版在哪裡可以買得到?

    • 乐岚,《甲骨文》这本书没有在中国出版,原因你懂的。但是网上有一些爱好者做的翻译,你可以搜索一下。也找得到PDF电子版。我看的是英文版。

  • Nancy Wang

    At the 2:55 mark, the podcast audio stops playing, and won't play any more. I would love to hear the rest!

    • Try again now! Thanks for reminding me of the issue!