Swedish writer Eva Ekeroth: Grownups should help children understand better "cruel" things in books

Recently, Swedish writer Eva Ekeroth talked about topics like her life in China and how to help children establish reading habit in an exclusive interview by GMW.cn (Guangming Online)

Eva Ekeroth, Swedish writer, has lived in China for over thirteen years and has been working on cultural exchanges between China and Sweden for a long period. She is to leave office as the Swedish cultural counselor to China. Her first book is a fairy tale about a story of friendship. She writes fairy tales just for her daughter’s happiness instead of education.

1. GMW.cn: Eva, since you have lived in China for more than thirteen years, I would like to ask what the most joyful part of your life is here. Meanwhile, as a Swedish living here, in which aspects do you think China can still improve? Just from your daily experience.

Eva: Well, my nicest memory from Chinese, actually, is that I spent nine years dancing with old people. It was when I lived in Shanghai. It was my most beautiful memory. Every week, I danced with them for nine years even with a big belly when I was going to have a child. China improved where everybody talks about the air and so on. But I have something that maybe nobody else has thought about. And it is the quote for architects who design which way the doors are going. If you go to a toilet, the door should be out-rolled not in-rolled. It is not safe if it is on fire. But I think every country can improve and learn from each other.

2. GMW.cn: Eva, I’ve learned that your husband, a Chinese professor, once modified the scenario or imposed something about preach when telling a story to your daughter, and you were strongly opposed to such behaviors. Then I want to know, what do you expect children to draw from reading?

Eva: Well, actually, I think it was bad what he did. He changed the ending and said then you should do your homework, you should do that or you should do this. And I think, actually, it is the rape of the story over an art work. Secondly, he imposed his own ideas, so it is not the whole piece of a book in its original vision. First of all, I don’t think it is so important what the content is. Because as long as the child likes to read it, it means that the child will start establishing a reading habit. And people with reading habit or children with reading habit will continue to read books when they grow up. And we all know that, actually, people can learn a lot from books, especially novels, I think, about life, about what it is to be a human being or become a better human being.

3. GMW.cn: Thanks for sharing. I heard that among the books you picked for your child, some are actually a little bit "realistic" or even "cruel" in the perspective of Chinese, for example, the story about the ghost of a grandpa passed away or the story about a child whose parents are divorced. It may be beyond imagination or unacceptable for Chinese parents to choose these stories for their children. So, could you tell us your reasons for doing so?

Eva: Well, I don’t know really if it is like this anymore. Because new generation in China growing up becoming parents, I think, they have different views actually. But maybe percentage wise there are not so many yet, but numerously, there are quite a few actually. I mean child they are not blind, they see what happens in real life. So why should you avoid subjects in books? It could even help them. I mean many people are facing their parents or friends’ parents getting a divorce for example. And I don’t know how to deal with it and nobody talks to them about it. And reasons behind because grown up thinks it is their problems not the children’s. But they think a lot. I mean, children are really smart people, so I think it’s better to let this kind of subjects being talked about in books. It could even help children understand better and feel better inside, I think.

4. GMW.cn: I know that you have had your first book of fairy tales, named Coming across a huge sand cat. The traditional education ideas are actually deeply imbedded in the minds of Chinese parents. It can be rather conducive if your book can open a distinctive window for Chinese parents and children, to inspire them to see how foreigners perceive and think about the way to pick books for children.Does this book embody your education ideas fully?

If you are supposed to use a few key words to describe this book, what will the words be?

Eva: When I wrote it, I have absolutely no education purpose at all. I don’t think you should have that when you create something unless it is for school books, I mean, mathematics school books or something. But, of course, as a person, I have some values with me, and unintentionally maybe those values come into the book. So of course you can’t avoid having something with you, but it was not on purpose. Some words, maybe one could say friendship, adventure and magic realism.

5. GMW.cn: I’m really looking forward to it that new ideas from your book will bring benefits to Chinese parents and children. Eva, I don’t know whether you have heard about this. A Chinese child imitated the plot of a domestic cartoon tying up two of his friends to a tree and roasting them. Unfortunately, the two kids were burnt severely. Our court made the judicial decision that the cartoon producer should take 15% of the responsibility.

As far as you know, is there any case in which children hurt themselves in imitating the cartoon in Sweden?

Eva: I have never heard about this case and I have never heard about the case in other place either.

6. GMW.cn: What is your opinion about such case?

Eva: Well, I don’t think you can just blame a cartoon for that thing, because, in the end, moral comes from your parents actually, it comes from when you grow up. I think most children are really nice human beings, and they would not do such a thing. It could even be mental in this, and I don’t know something that can be explained. But moral I think. And it’s also very important, of course, to communicate with your child. So if you let your child watch something very violent, if you let them do that in the first place, I think it needs to be a communication between the parent and child to explain or talk about it at least. I can’t say anything about this case, but my opinion is that it doesn’t only come from a cartoon, there are so much more behind it.

Interviewed by Zeng Fanhua

Story by Zhang Zhou

Sincerely thanks to Wang Jiayi

GMW.cn

Eva Ekeroth
Swedish Writer

Eva Ekeroth, Swedish writer, has lived in China for over thirteen years and has been working on cultural exchanges between China and Sweden for a long period. She is to leave office as the Swedish cultural counselor to China. Her first book is a fairy tale about a story of friendship. She writes fairy tales just for her daughter’s happiness instead of education.More>>

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  • "Well, my nicest memory from Chinese, actually, is that I spent nine years dancing with old people. It was when I lived in Shanghai. Every week, I danced with them for nine years even with a big belly when I was going to have a child."
  • "I mean, children are really smart people, so I think it's better to let this kind of subjects being talked about in books. It could even help children understand better and feel better inside, I think."
  • "Some words (About Eva's first fairy book), maybe one could say friendship, adventure and magic realism."
  • "So if you let your child watch something very violent, if you let them do that. In the first place, I think it needs to be a communication between the parent and child to explain or talk about it at least."

Consultant producer:Zeng Fanhua

Designer: Zhou yueqin

Art Editor: Li Wenfeng

Executive Editor:Zeng Fanhua