St. Louis poet, critic and crime novelist Qiu Xiaolong to read

St. Louis-based poet, critic and crime novelist Qiu Xiaolong, Ph.D., will read from his work at 8 p.m. April 19 as a part of The SmartSet Series: Where Great Writers Read, sponsored by The Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences. The reading will take place in Anheuser-Busch Hall, Room 204.

In addition, Qiu will lead a seminar on the craft of writing at 4 p.m. April 20 in McMillan Café. The event will include a question-and-answer session.

Qiu authored two prize-winning novels, Death of a Red Heroine (2000) and A Loyal Character Dancer (2002); a poetry translation, Treasury of Chinese Love Poems (2003); and a poetry collection, Lines Around China (2003).

His new novel, When Red Is Black, has been published in French and will be released in English in July. A poetry translation, Poems From the Tang Dynasty, also is forthcoming this year.

Before arriving in the United States in 1988, Qiu published prize-winning poetry, translations and criticism in Chinese and was a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association. After emigrating, Qiu began writing in English and earned a doctorate in comparative literature from Washington University.

He continues to reside in St. Louis, with his wife, Wang Lijun, and daughter, Julia.

Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu’s first novel in English, received a 2001 Anthony Award for First Novel and was the first of Qiu’s “Detective Chen” series, which follows the exploits of a police inspector whose job sometimes brings him into conflict with upper echelons of the Chinese Communist party. The character’s background in English language and literature makes him an ideal host for American visitors, with whom he can discuss his love of Western literature, from T.S. Eliot to Faulkner.

Death of a Red Heroine was favorably reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Library Journal, Booklist and many others, and was selected by National Public Radio as one of the 10 best books of 2000.

Publishers Weekly noted, “The author, himself a poet and critic, peppers the story with allusions to classical Chinese literature, juxtaposing poignant poetry with a gruesome murder so that the novel reads like the translation of an ancient text imposed over a modern tale of intrigue.

“This is an impressive and welcome respite from the typical crime novel.”

The Chicago Tribune added, “Xiaolong knows that words can save your soul and in his pungent, poignant mystery, he proves it on every page.”

To a Western reader, the characters in Qiu’s novels quote poetry with unusual frequency.

“Most novels in China contain much more poetry (than Western novels), at the start of the chapter, at the end, and in the middle — and sometimes they use a poem to introduce a new character,” Qiu said. “I tried to keep this kind of Chinese tradition.”

Using poetry, Qiu said, “can be a way of discreetly revealing character. China has a self-effacing culture. It’s better not to say what you want to say immediately.”

Both events are free and open to the public. Copies of Qiu’s work will be available for purchase, and a book-signing and reception will follow each program.

For more information, call 935-5576.

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