ARTS / TV
Portuguese writer reads ode to late father on Chinese TV program, finding connection that transcends language
Published: Dec 27, 2020 06:03 PM

Dong Qing, the host of The Reader and He Shuai (right) at the TV program Photos: Courtesy of The Reader Portuguese writer Jose Luis Peixoto

Dong Qing, the host of The Reader and He Shuai (right) at the TV program 

Portuguese writer Jose Luis Peixoto appeared on China Central Television's The Reader on Friday, reading from his book You Died on Me (Portuguese-edition: Morreste-me). Peixoto was inspired to share the ode to his beloved father with Chinese audiences after being moved by a similar story of a Chinese father and son.

Similar experience

Peixoto's father passed away at 57, the same age as He Shuai's father, both dying of lung cancer. The similarities between their losses made Peixoto deeply relate to He's pain, who was a guest of the program in October and read a part of Peixoto's book to commemorate his father.

"I was deeply moved because it reminded me of my father's story and all that I felt when I lost him," Peixoto told the Global Times on Saturday.

Although He read in Chinese, language was not an obstacle for Peixoto; in fact, it added more emotion because it was incredible to realize that the text had surpassed the barrier between these two languages. 

When reading the book, He choked with sobs several times as he deeply understood the lived emotions that the words want to express. His reading impressed the original writer.

He's father, He Ming, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2016, with doctors saying he had, at most, three months left to live. But he did not give up and wait for death. Instead, he set a target to run 100 marathons by the time he dies.

He finally passed away in 2020, and during the extra four years that he beat death, he finished 61 marathons. His spirit touched many people, and continues to bring his son great pride.

"I feel that the story of He Ming is such a powerful example of courage and dedication. It is an overwhelming lesson to his son, but also to us all. We should look up to this example whenever we are challenged by life. Also, I think that this incredible display of mental and physical strength comes directly from the principles that are engraved in Chinese culture," Peixoto said.

Peixoto agreed to attend the program and continue to read the book after He, sharing his own father's story with Chinese audiences.

The writer was regretful that his father could not see his present achievements and said he knew it would mean a lot to him if he ever knew that his younger son was becoming a prominent writer in Portugal.

The young Chinese man's interpretation of his work has sparked nostalgia for the writer.

Closer to audiences 

Peixoto gave positive remarks to the TV program. "I was very amazed by the concept of the program. Here in Europe, unfortunately, I haven't heard of any TV program with a similar concept. It makes reading closer to wider audiences, it encourages people to read."

Getting closer to readers is a hope to the writer. One of the reasons he agreed to attend the program is that he considered it an incredible chance to address such a wide audience of Chinese readers.

"In China, family is a very important aspect of life. This is a book that talks about family. Even if it deals with loss, mourning and death, I like to believe this is a book about love. It was love that made me write this book and I have already noticed that Chinese readers understand that feeling perfectly," the writer noted.

He has visited China several times, but there are still many places that he would like to visit in the country. His dream is to spend extended periods in the country and get the chance to deepen his knowledge of this culture that fascinates him.

The writer started to learn Chinese in order to fully grasp opportunities to communicate with Chinese readers when visiting the country in the future.

"I want to say thank you for the enthusiastic responses to my book. I have read many of such responses online and on WeChat," Peixoto said to Chinese readers.

More of the writer's books will be published in China in the future.

In 2021, the writer will have a novel published in China about his hometown, a very small village in central Portugal of 1,000 inhabitants. "I hope that it will also be an interesting read."
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