Feng Li was born in Shenyang, in the northeast of the People’s Republic of China, in 1963. She studied Chinese Literature at Liaoning University in Shenyang. From 1985 to 1990 she worked as a journalist for the Lhasa evening paper in Tibet. After her return to China, she worked for seven years at the Liaoning Research Institute for Art as an academic associate with a focus on drama theory. In addition, she worked between 1995 and 1998 as director for the women’s program ‘Half the Sky’ for the TV channel CCTV (Chinese Central Television) and produced several documentary portraits about women. After that she spent two years as editor and translator at the Chunfeng Literature Publishing House. During this time she translated, from German, ten children’s books by Janosch, among them ‘Oh, wie schön ist Panama’ (Engl: ‘The Trip to Panama’, 1978) and ‘Ich sag, du bist ein Bär’ (Engl: I Say You are a Bear). These appeared in Chinese translation in 1999.
Feng Li has also had success as a writer herself (with seven books published), yet none have been translated into western languages. She began to write in the 1980’s, and her first story came out in 1987 during her stay in Tibet. Feng Li publishes her stories and novels under the pseudonym Pipi, named after Astrid Lindgren’s children’s hero Pippi Longstocking. In her own distinctive style Feng Li uses a subtle brand of irony to describe everyday life in China – from the search for happiness to problematic relationships, as well as the difficulties of being allocated a flat. She does this without subscribing to the popular trend of so-called ‘westernisation’ of today’s Chinese literature, currently prevalent amongst Chinese writers. Nevertheless, influences in her prose are evident that signify China’s current ambitions to broaden its economic and cultural parameters.
Two of her short story collections are especially popular, ‘Quan Shijie Don Ba Sui’ (2000; Engl: ‘We are All Eight Years Old’) and ‘Weixian De Richang Shenghuo’ (2000; Engl: ‘Dangerous Everyday Life’). In 1999 her novel ‘Kewang’ (1998; Engl: ‘Thirst for Passion’) was distinguished as an “outstanding national book”. The orderly life of a middle-aged married couple goes off the rails when the husband falls in love with another woman. A tragedy is played out against the backdrop of a quest for self-realisation and fulfilment in love, at whose centre are posed questions of togetherness and the value of family. The prose pieces ‘Chumai Yangguang’ (t: ‘Sunshine on Sale’) and her memoirs ‘Bu Xiang Zhangda’ (t: ‘I Don’t Want to Grow Up’) were published in 2003. In 2004, she was a guest of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin. Feng Li lives in Beijing.
© international literature festival berlin