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French-language writer Ying Chen is the Shadbolt Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
French-language writer Ying Chen is the Shadbolt Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Fellow’s French tragedies

March 19, 2009

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Novelist Ying Chen is just finishing up a semester as the Shadbolt Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Chen, a graduate in French language and literature from Fudan University in Shanghai, came to Canada 20 years ago to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at McGill University in Montreal.

She has since published seven novels and one collection of essays, all in French. One of them, L’Ingratitude/Ingratitude, which depicts women’s condition, won the Prix Quebec-Paris and Elle Quebec magazine’s reader’s prize (1996) as well as the Prix des Libraires du Quebec (Association of Quebec Booksellers).

A new novel, Un Enfant a ma Porte (A Child at my Door) will be published this spring in Paris. "The book is about a woman who is incapable of handling motherhood and questions the mystification, the unspoken around this subject," says Chen, who has two young children of her own. "All of my works are tragedies. I like tragedy—not in life, but in books."

Chen says her books, though written using simple words and grammar, are not easy to write or read. Her more recent books, for example, have no geographic setting and their characters have no names and are merely represented by letters.

During Chen’s time on campus, she has met with students in the French department to discuss the importance of reading and literature. She has also invited guest authors from Quebec, Paris and China to campus to give presentations to students.

The fellowship is funded by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Endowment in the Humanities, which supports writers and artists as they create, research and interact with faculty and students on professionally related activities.

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