Writing, History and Music in <i>Do Not Say We Have Nothing</i>

A Conversation with Madeleine Thien

  • Hsiu-chuan Lee National Taiwan Normal University


This conversation focuses on, but is not limited to, Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016). In the first section, Thien dwells on creative writing’s mediating role in historical representation; she also comments on her relationship with characters and readers. The second section discusses the inspiring role of music in the creation of the novel and probes the meaning of music, silence and mathematics in politics and for individual characters. In the third section, Thien deliberates on the motif of “the Book of Records” and the implications of taking “compiling” and “copying” as creative forms. In the last section, Thien turns to her approach to June Fourth by linking it to the history of the Cultural Revolution. She also compares her writing with Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma and discusses writing as a way to connect generations.