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Apr 19, 2019

Yan Lianke is one of China's most influential living writers. His often-satirical works have earned him an international readership. He has been touted for the Nobel Prize in Literature. And yet, most of Yan's books are effectively (if not formally) banned in China.

Ben brings together three previous guests (Tricia Baldwin, Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Daniel Woolf) to discuss the rise of China, the absurdity of modern life, and what government power will look like in the future. Their point of departure is a 2018 profile of Yan Lianke in The New Yorker magazine.

Note: you don't need to read anything before listening to the conversation; the below piece is a starting point only.

Read the article in The New Yorker by Jiayang Fan.

Read the blog post for this episode.

About Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke has secured his place as contemporary China’s most essential and daring novelist, “with his superlative gifts for storytelling and penetrating eye for truth” (New York Times Book Review). His newest novel, The Day the Sun Died—winner of the Dream of the Red Chamber Award, one of the most prestigious honours for Chinese-language novels—is a haunting story of a town caught in a waking nightmare.

Yan was born in an impoverished region of Song County, Henan Province in 1958. His parents, illiterate farmers who lacked the means to send him to university, encouraged him to enlist in the army, where he rose in the ranks to become a propaganda writer. Upon returning to civilian life, Yan embarked on a career as a novelist. Over the last 30 years, he has produced an extensive body of work that ranges from novels, novellas and short fiction to essays and criticism. Although he has had two of his novels banned in China and was, for a period of three years, prohibited from obtaining a passport or travelling abroad, Yan continues to speak honestly about the impact that government censorship—and self-censorship—have had on contemporary Chinese writers.

His full-length novels include: The Dream of Ding Village (丁庄梦, Ding Zhuang Meng), a tale of the blood trade and subsequent AIDS epidemic in a rural Henan village; The Joy of Living (Alt title: The Living, 受活, Shou Huo), a sweeping tale of the lives of disabled rural villagers from the Chinese Communist revolution through the years of reform and opening; The Sunlit Years (日光流年, Riguang Liunian); Solidity of Water (also called Hard as Water, 坚硬如水, Jianying Ru Shui) and Serve the People (为人民服务, Wei Renmin Fuwu), which was banned in China and later translated into English, French and Japanese.

He has published ten collections of novellas and short stories: among them, the critically acclaimed Days, Months, Years (年月日, Nian Yue Ri), Song of Balou (耙耧天歌, Balou Tiange) and a five-volume set of his collected works. He is a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the first and second Lu Xun Literary Prizes and the Lao She Award for literary excellence, awarded in recognition of his novel The Joy of Living (受活, Shou Huo), considered by many to be his master work. Yan is also a winner of the Franz Kafka Prize.


About the Guests

Tricia Baldwin

Listen to Ben's previous podcast conversation with Tricia (Episode 12 on The Role the Arts Play)

Tricia Baldwin became the Director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (‘the Isabel’) in December 2014, and works with a tremendously talented team at the Isabel. Tricia is responsible for its programming featuring top diverse emerging and established artists, education, student and community engagement resulting in significant increase in audience participation, socially engaged art, and facilities management. She established the Isabel as an arts incubator for new works, the Ka’tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts with curator Dylan Robinson, the Isabel Human Rights Arts Festival, and the Isabel Overton Bader Canadian Violin Competition. Tricia is the co-creator of Queen’s University’s new M.A. in Arts Leadership program with Queen’s Dan School of Drama and Music, and is the course developer and instructor of the program’s Contract Negotiations in the Arts graduate course. A champion of training the next generation of arts leaders, Tricia has been a mentor with the Canadian Heritage Talent to Lead Program and the Cultural Career Council of Ontario Mentor Program. Tricia recently served on the International Association of Venue Managers Association conference panel on arts management education.

Prior to the Isabel, Tricia Baldwin was the Managing Director of Tafelmusik from 2000 to 2014. During this period, Tafelmusik doubled its operating revenues and increased its endowment seventeen fold. The orchestra undertook over 50 national and international tours, created 20 recordings and films that garnered significant industry awards and nominations that led to the launching of its recording label and digital concert hall, established artist training programs attracting pre-professional musicians from around the world, and undertook a successful $3M venue renovation. Tricia also headed up Tafelmusik’s expansion of venues within Toronto that contributed to the doubling of earned revenues and significant audience development. Prior to Tafelmusik, she was the Executive Director of Ballet British Columbia and General Manager of the Kingston Symphony. Tricia received her Bachelor of Music (University of Toronto) and her MBA (York University), and has continued her education with courses from Harvard Business School, University of Oxford School of Continuing Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School, and Boston University.

Tricia Baldwin has been awarded the Canada Council for the Arts’ John Hobday Award in Arts Management, a scholarship to attend Harvard University’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program, First Prize for Student Philosophy Essay from the University of Oxford School of Continuing Studies, and the Queen’s Human Rights Initiative Award. As a volunteer, she currently serves on the Advisory Board of the York University Schulich School of Business Arts, Media, and Entertainment Management program, the City of Kingston Arts Advisory Board and Professional Development Working Group, and St. Lawrence College Music and Digital Media Program Advisory Committee. She has been a panel advisor/juror/assessor for the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, City of Toronto Cultural Services, City of Barrie Department of Culture, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Learn more about Tricia.

Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant

Listen to Ben's previous podcast conversation with Elizabeth (Episode 37 on US Politics: Women, Polarization and the Media)

Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant (Ph.D. McGill) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University, and the Director of both the Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations (IIGR) as well as the Canadian Opinion Research Archive (CORA). Her research focuses on Canadian and comparative politics, with particular interests in electoral politics, voting behaviour, and public opinion; news media; and the political representation of women. She is the author of Gendered News: Media Coverage and Electoral Politics in Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013), which won the 2016 Pierre Savard Award from the International Council of Canadian Studies, and was one of three books shortlisted for the Canadian Political Science Association’s 2014 Donald Smiley Prize.

In Gendered News, Goodyear-Grant presents compelling evidence that gender structures certain aspects of news coverage of candidates and politicians – not how much they’re covered, but certainly how they’re covered – and demonstrates that these differences can impact negatively on female candidates’ and leaders’ electoral prospects and political careers, contributing to the persistent under-representation of women at all levels of politics. Goodyear-Grant has also published work on attitudes toward democracy and political representation, attitudes toward the use of referenda, and so on, all part of a larger research agenda that concentrates on representation and political behaviour published in venues such as Political Behaviour, Politics & Gender, Electoral Studies, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, and the Canadian Journal of Political Science.

In the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s, Goodyear-Grant teaches courses on campaigns and elections; women, gender, and politics; Canadian politics more generally; and empirical methods.

Learn more about Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant or follow her on Twitter (@eplusgg).

Daniel Woolf

Listen to Ben's previous podcast conversation with Daniel (Episode 10 on History and Jazz)

Daniel Robert Woolf is the 20th Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University, a role he stepped into on September 1, 2009.

It wasn’t his first time on the campus, of course: Principal Woolf studied at Queen’s as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, graduating with a degree in history in 1980.

After earning his doctorate at Oxford University (DPhil’83), Dr. Woolf returned to Queen’s in 1984 as a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow in history.

His teaching career took him from Queen’s to Bishop’s University, before he joined the history department at Dalhousie University in 1987. Seven years later, he became a full professor, then associate dean and later, the acting dean of Graduate Studies. In 1999, Dr. Woolf moved to McMaster University, where he held the role of dean of the Faculty of Humanities. He joined the University of Alberta as dean of Arts in 2002.

Dr. Woolf, who is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Historical Society, admits that learning he would become the principal of his alma mater initially inspired feelings of “shock, elation, and a little bit of fear,” and he continues to regard his role as both an honour and a challenge.

A specialist in early modern British cultural history and the history of historical thought and writing, Dr. Woolf continues to teach at Queen’s on a part-time basis as a professor in the Department of History, and also pursues his own research and writing. He is the author or editor of a number of scholarly articles, monographs and books, including the five-volume Oxford History of Historical Writing (2011-2012) and a textbook on historiography entitled A Global History of History (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which has been translated into several languages.

But Principal Woolf isn’t just about books (though he does have a growing collection of old and rare ones!) – he is also a fan of music (especially jazz), classic movies and is the father of three (one of whom is also a Queen’s graduate).

Born in London, England, Dr. Woolf grew up in Winnipeg. A love of academia runs in his family: his mother taught English at university, his physician father was a member of a medical school faculty, and his uncle is a historian of modern Europe.

Dr. Woolf, who began his second term as principal in 2014, is motivated by Queen’s students and by their dedication to making a difference in the world. While the university is a bigger place than it was when he was a student, it is also more research-intensive and has a more diverse student body.

Since taking the helm, Dr. Woolf has built new connections with government, industry and institutions across Canada, led Queen’s through an extensive series of planning exercises, established the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health, and overseen the Initiative Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in Queen’s history.

Principal Woolf’s term concludes on June 30, 2019.