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The China Syndrome

Gennaio 2007
Lisa See, scrittrice americana di origine cinese molto amata anche in Italia, discute le contraddizioni della Cina di oggi. Che nonostante la rivoluzione epocale in atto ha mantenuto una fondamentale, incancellabile gentilezza.

di Francesca Del Rosso

File audio:

Lisa See
Lisa See
Lisa See, Fiore di neve e il ventaglio segreto
Lisa See, Fiore di neve e il ventaglio segreto

Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

Even though she has red hair, American author Lisa See is of Chinese origin. More importantly perhaps, she has made China the subject of her books. Last year saw the publication of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which became a bestseller in the United States and was subsequently published in Italian by Longanesi as Fiore di neve e il ventaglio segreto. Set in rural China in the nineteenth century, it tells of the hardships endured by women in a society in which foot-binding was still the norm. The novel also describes the secret language – “nu shu” – that women used for communicating with each other. Yet when Lisa See met with Speak Up, she talked about the China of today. We asked her how many prejudices westerners still had about the country:

Lisa See (Standard American accent) :

A lot, I think, a lot! You know, I think people hear, “Oh, this will one day be a superpower, an economic superpower,” but I don’t think people have a concept of what that really means and how much China has changed and how different it is today. Today a city like Shanghai is the most modern city in the world, in the whole world, and yet in the countryside, in some ways it’s still like it was 100 or 300 years ago. So in one country you have this very old way, but also a very modern way and I think it’s very hard for people outside of China to see how these differences integrate and how they actually have an effect on the outside world. just within China, but between China, and people in China, and the outside world.

We also asked her about the contradiction between economic wealth and the lack of political freedom:

Lisa See:

Shoot, you’re exactly right, it’s very hard to reconcile how people there think about human rights and then this great economic freedom, but what I think is happening is that the economic richness that is occurring right now and this huge growth is actually having an effect on individual rights. So, for example, they used to say... or the government says, “no satellite dishes,” but today, in... even small remote villages, there’ll be a satellite dish for the whole village, so that they’re seeing outside images from other parts of China, from other parts of the world, so I think, as much as China sometimes tries to keep closed and keep people separated, that, because of television, the internet, cell phones, this kind of communication is going on, not only just within China, but between China, and people in China, and the outside world...is actually changing how the people think about freedom, individual thought, individual choice and that’s a kind of like a grass roots revolution.

In conclusion we asked what she liked most about China:

Lisa See:

The countryside is so beautiful, the people – even very, very poor people, these peasants, have such a kindness to them and an openness and... welcoming so that, you know, I travel to very remote areas and, when I walk into a village, people come out, they want to have me come and have tea, they want to share their food and they have almost nothing. And that... let me just say you would never find that in the United States ever, noone would ever invite a stranger in like that.


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hardships - difficoltà.

foot-binding - fasciatura dei piedi.

actually - in realtà.

wealth - ricchezza.

lack - mancanza.

shoot - (coll.) accidenti.

that is occurring - che si sta verificando.

huge growth - enorme crescita.

satellite dishes - parabole satellitari.

kind of like a grass roots revolution - un po’ come una rivoluzione dal basso, a livello popolare.

peasants - contadini.

to share - condividere.