June 04, 2005

Le Journal de Ma Yan

Writing about web page http://enfantsduningxia.uk.over-blog.com/

Have just started reading 'Le Journal de Ma Yan: la vie quotidienne d'une écolière chinoise', a book my mum brought back from France. I'm trying to get my French reading skills back up to scratch, and starting with the writings of a 13 year old girl seemed like a good idea!

It's the journal of a young Chinese schoolgirl from a remote mountainous province in NW China called Ningxia. The journalist Pierre Haski, a correspondent for the newspaper 'Libération en Chine' was visiting her village, and just as he was leaving a woman handed him a letter written on the back of a seed packet, as well as some notebooks containing the writings of her daughter, Ma Yan. In the letter Ma Yan had written: 'Je n'irai plus à l'école cette année. Je viendrai labourer afin de payer les études de mon petit frère. A chaque fois que je pense aux rires et aux plaisirs du campus, c'est comme si je me retrouvais à l'école. J'ai tellement envie d'étudier, mais ma famille est si pauvre.' (No more school for me this year. I have to labour in order to pay for my little brother's schooling. When I think of the laughter and happy times at school, I can almost imagine myself there. How much I want to study! but my family is so poor.)

Haski was moved by this letter and returned to the village to help Ma Yan and to listen to her story. He published an article in Libération in September 2001 entitled 'Je veux étudier' (I want to study), which attracted the attention of many French people, who sent Ma Yan letters and money. Haski established a foundation called 'Enfants du Ningxia' to raise money to help the children in Ma Yan's village and province, which allowed her to return to school and become the first girl from her village to go to college.

The diaries were initially translated into French and became a bestseller in France, and have since been translated into German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Czech and English. As Haski writes on the foundation's website, 'La bouteille à la mer est arrivée à bon port!' (The message in a bottle arrived at the right port).

Anyway, it looks like an interesting read, and it will certainly get the French cogs whirring in my brain again…

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