Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Peter Hessler.
As a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of three acclaimed books on China, Hessler’s writing offers fascinating and deeply felt insights into the changing landscapes, cultures and characters he has encountered in his travels.
After teaching in a remote part of China’s Sichuan provence in the mid 1990s as a Peace Corps volunteer, Hessler wrote ‘River Town‘ which became a New York Times bestseller and will shortly be made into a movie. He spent much of the next decade in Beijing, making frequent trips around China, which produced two books, Oracle Bones and Country Driving.
Upon leaving China himself and his wife, Leslie T. Chang, herself a highly esteemed author and TED speaker, spent a few years in Colorado before relocating to Cairo to cover the ongoing Egyptian Revolution. A collection of his reportage, Strange Stones: Dispatches from Easy and West, was published in 2013.
With myself in a small ground floor apartment in Shanghai and Hessler in a (presumably somewhat larger) ground floor apartment in Cairo, we spoke on Skype about China, Egypt, writing, travel and language.
The edited audio recording of our conversation is about 30 minutes long, and you can download the file or listen online here.
Mentioned in the interview:
- Sichuanese vs. Mandarin (also called Putonghua, ‘common tongue’) the standard Chinese dialect.
- Sayyid Ahmed, Hessler’s now famous garbage collector
- Chinese lingere merchants in Upper Egypt
- Dr Don, the small town pharmacist in Colorado
To broaden the scope of Intrepid Times, we plan to complete more interviews with writers and travelers whom we admire, so look out for those on the website soon.
Nathan James Thomas