Zhang Jie was born in Peking, China in 1937. She was the daughter of an elementary school teacher and grew up without a father. Contrary to her hopes, she was assigned a degree-course place in Planning Studies rather than Literature at the People’s University of Peking. After concluding her studies in 1960, she worked for almost 20 years at the ministry of industry for mechanical engineering. Because she was the daughter of a »right winger«, she was forced to participate in re educational measures at a special school from 1969 to 1972. It was at this time that she also began to write. Only after the Cultural Revolution (1966–67) did she publish her first story »Die Musik der Wälder« (1978), which won the national prize for best short story. In 1979 she received the national literature prize for »Wer hat mehr vom Leben«. In the same year she became a member of the Chinese Association of Writers. In 1980 she joined the Chinese Communist Party. She has worked as a freelance writer since 1982. In the same year her novel »Schwere Flügel« appeared in the German translation, which was awarded the Mao Dun Prize, China’s most distinguished reward for literature. In 1984 for »Die Voraussetzungen sind noch nicht reif« she received the literature prize of the renowned magazine »Beijing wenxue«. In 1985 she participated in the »Horizonte-Festival« in Berlin and in 1987 received a scholarship to write and reside in Vienna for six months. Thereafter she traveled extensively in Europe and held numerous readings. For »Zwei Liebeserzählungen« she received the Malaparte Literature Prize. Jie is the only Chinese author so far who received the Mao Dun Prize for the second time (2005).
In her stories and her Mao Dun Prize winning trilogy »Wuzi« the author reflects on the radical changes brought about by modernization, and especially on how life has changed for women in her country. Characteristic of the way her writing has developed is the change from the gentle lyrical voice of her first stories to a cruder tone, which even sounds satirical when thematizing the various manifestations of the phenomenon of power. Her most recent publication was the novel »Abschied von der Mutter«, which is about the last months Zhang Jies spent with her mother. The author herself calls the novel »a love story between mother and daughter« – at the same time it is a critical mirror image of the social changes in China. The author is one of her country’s best-known writers. Today she lives in Peking and works for the »Chinese Writers’ Association«.
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