Two literary festivals have got tongues wagging and tables talking.
March is the time for reading in Beijing. With the cold winter winds from Mongolia still buffeting the Chinese capital and delaying the onset of spring, Beijingers survive the last month of what has now become a half-year-long winter by seeking refuge in the comfort of books. Every March, the city plays host to two literature festivals that now boast faithful following. For a city that thinks of itself as an international capital, Beijing has had little in the way of literary fare to offer to visitors and residents. That changed when the Bookworm, a bookshop and lending library in the heart of the city popular with expats, introduced a literature festival five years ago.
The restaurant chain Capital M got into the act with an equally ambitious international festival that marked its first edition last year.
Where the two festivals, particularly the Bookworm's, stand out is in giving a rare platform for Chinese authors to speak to their international fans. In the past few years, now well-known Chinese writers like Yu Hua and Yan Lianke have become regulars, giving the festivals a unique flavour and a high profile. Yu Hua this year will for the first time talk about his latest work — and his first non-fiction book — “China in Ten Words”. The book is a sharp, biting and funny take on 10 broad themes that, according to the author, have defined the political and social culture of modern China, from Mao's “revolution” and the vague invocation of “the people” to a new culture of fakery. Both festivals have now become mega international events, even flying in prize-winning authors from some 20 countries. For Indian visitors, March is now as good a time as any to visit the Chinese capital. Pity about those Mongolian winds.