23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Chen Danyan

Chen Danyan was born in Shanghai in 1958. From 1978 to 1982 she studied Chinese Literature at the Eastern China Normal University. After completing her degree she worked as a reporter for the ‘Children’s Epoch Magazine’.  In 1972, Chen was published in ‘Shanghai Youngsters’ Prose published in 1984 won her – among others – the Shanghai Young Writer´s Prize.

In 1986, she began work on a theme new to Chinese literature, with short stories focusing on the experiences and feelings of adolescent girls.  With ‘Beautiful Sun in Chilly Winter’ (1990) she wrote her first short story for teenagers.  Several others followed, including ‘Death of a Schoolgirl’ which was chosen as one of the world’s 100 best children’s books by the Japanese Association for Children’s Literature in 1991.  In her scrutiny of the emotional world of teenagers, Chen Danyan’s writings deal critically with China’s official »one-child« policy (now in force for the past two decades). China’s young generation, the products of single-child homes, was the topic of a radio talkshow run for three months on Shanghai Eastern Radio. A television series entitled »Single Children« was launched in 1996. Some 70,000 copies of her documentary book »The Declaration of Single Children« published in 1997, were sold on the Chinese mainland. This work was elected Bestseller of the Year.

She believes Shanghai, the »Paris of the Orient« is strongly influenced by European culture. Following a visit to Germany in 1992, she travelled throughout Europe, getting to know, as she puts it, the »real« Europe, which quite obviously differed from the mental picture she received from literature. She gave her impressions in numerous texts. A trip across the United States (1994) influenced her work, an example being the essay »New York Holiday« which she wrote in an Italian café in a small town in New Jersey.

Up until now only her novel »A Girl« has been translated into German. It won her the UNESCO Prize for Peace and Tolerance and was nominated for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (1996). The authoress autobiographical novel confronts her personal experiences during the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai in 1966, influenced by an atmosphere of fear and distrust.

Chen Danyan’s most recent work has a documentary character. Her »Shanghai Memoir« an essay on Shanghai published in 1998, was awarded China’s Bestseller Award of the Year. »Shanghai Beauty« was published in 2000. Chen Danyan lives in Shanghai, is married and has a daughter.

© international literature festival berlin


Death of a schoolgirl
Fukutake Publishing Co.
Japan, 1990

Nü zhong xuesheng zhi si
Yeqiang Chubanshe
Taibei, 1991

Neun Leben: Eine Kindheit in Shanghai
Nagel & Kimche
Zürich, 1995
Übersetzung: Barbara Wang

Yu he ta de zi xing che
Shanghai, 2002

Tianshi Duzitong
Shanghai, 2003

Übersetzerin: Barbara Wang