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Swimmers Club

The pioneers of aviation were never lonely

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Who: Mujie Li
Where: Brighton, UK
What: Writer

What do you write?

I write Chinese and English. As the second language I learned, English offers me an alienated distance in expressing my ideas, which makes me feel safe and peaceful. Furthermore, the space between Chinese and English offers more freedom to express things: depicting things in different grammars and tones, or in the words and grammars themselves being able to be understood in new ways if changing their own linguistic contexts. Such a freedom finds fun in writing, in terms of forms of writing.

I write changes, stressing the correlations and transformations of things. How things are perceived and correlated, how symptoms are produced, by what kinds of forces and elements. This means that the texts themselves are less narratively driven, because the emphasis is put on depicting phenomena and the sensual experience within. In this, the writing of changes formulates and arranges grammar and syntax. The combination of contents and forms in writing opens ways of actualising various experiments, which, again, produces fun.

Stock question. Can you tell us a bit about your influences?

The writing style of Mirage Time is influenced by the works and authors as below (but not limited to): Passages by Ann Quin, In Transit by Brigid Brophy, Between and Thru by Christine Brooke-Rose, Encounters with Lise and Other Stories by Leonid Dobychin. Generally speaking, the threads of my literary influences come from: female writers such as Marguerite Duras, Virginia Woolf, Qing Shan, Lilian Lee, Geling Yan; works having aspects of traditional and/or experimental Japanese aesthetics such as Yukio Mishima and Ryunosuke Akutagawa; Latin American magical realist literature, and Chinese and other folklores.

Another important thread of influence comes from cinema, as I consider moving images to be like a series of edited images of thought, while the languages of cinema can be transformed into ways of perceiving and writing. Film authors whose style influences me include: François Ozon, Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar-Wai, Shunji Iwai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wim Wenders, and Éric Rohmer.

I’m also deeply influenced by the thoughts of cultural theorists: Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Roland Bathes, Autonomist Marxism, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Rancière, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and so on.

Can you tell us a little bit about your most recently published book and whether it does or doesn’t differ from the types of things you’ve written before?

Before writing Mirage Time, I mostly wrote prose on moving images. This writing practice allows me to write with sensual experiences through correlating images of thought. Such a way of writing is effectively used in the composition of Mirage Time. However, the composition process of Mirage Time experiments on the boundaries and limits of such a method, through creating transformative ways of expression in vocabulary and grammar. As a result, the reader might see the transformative words, grammar and syntax, as well as experience the intensity created by symbols and signs.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a collection of short stories, which tries to depict aspects of urban life from diverse perspectives. The idea starts from the question: how to capture the fluxes of multi-layered cityscapes in intense forms of writing? So the circumstance in every story is a complex, the writing traverses through and shapes its own forces of the flows driving narratives. The stages where stories happen are those familiar yet strange places, such as office, airport, hotel, etc., from which experiences become detached and reattach to the space. The language forms mainly adopt a mixed style of complicated sentences with minimal sentences, in order to test the plastic texture of the text itself.

Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (anything from independent presses, record labels, even coffee shops, etc). What are your opinions on the current state of it? 

To be independent in my mind first of all is a different conceptual modality from that before. Independent culture in the pre-postmodern time associates with sub-cultures, we used to use the word “underground”, “sub-” and “marginal” to describe and distinguish it from mainstream culture. From the new century on however, I understand that independent cultures are sections of networks that contain new modes of energies and therefore new forms of forces in assembling into other cultural and social systems. Independent cultures nowadays have robust energies coming from their fiercely malleable forms.

What influence, if any, does the city in which you live have on your work?

When writing Mirage Time, my hometown Luoyang brought different aspects of inspiration to the writing. It is located in the hinterland of China and is an ancient city in the history of China – about 3500 years old. Time gives many physical layers to the city itself and much imagination of literature, even written as the names of streets. These materials and symbols formalise my approach to reading a city through experiences, allowing me to read cities differently and constantly deconstruct and reshape the prototype of that original city in my mind. Writing offers me a place of transiting between the real and the imaginary in reading and constructing the concept of a city.

Finally, can you swim?

I can, but am a bit afraid of burying my head in the water and then raising it up to breathe. It is difficult for me to get control of the mechanism of breathing under the force coming from the head’s movement in between air and water.


Further Info

Mujie Li’s new book Mirage Time will be available from Dostoyevsky Wannabe in Autumn 2017

Municipal Pool

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.