Huang Nubo: I’m getting published by Gallimard

NRK‘s recent interview with poet-tycoon Huang Nubo soon drifted, fittingly, into the realm of poetry. He is, after all, “first of all a poet” who became a businessman just “to survive”. (Before becoming a businessman, he survived as an editor for an Association of Mayors – at the time when he published his first poetry collection – and, before that, as an official at the Propaganda Department.)

“Do you know the French publishing house Gallimard?” he asked his interviewer. “They are one of the top publishers in the world. In the last hundred years, they have never published poetry by Asian poets [this is almost true], but this year they are going to publish a poetry collection by me.”

In other, possibly unrelated news, André Velter, since 1999 the director of Gallimard’s poetry series, was with Huang earlier this month in the latest edition of a Chinese-French poetry festival, organised among others by Huang’s company Zhongkun 中坤 in Beijing. It’s quite a coincidence for Huang to announce that his poetry will appear in a collection directed by Velter, just after he’s praised the Norwegian government for refraining from meeting the Dalai Lama. Had the Norwegians ignored China’s warnings and met the guy, he had implied, his investment plans in the country might not be able to proceed. Velter, a poet, and his partner Marie-José Lamothe, a photographer and tibetologist, have often written about Tibetan issues, and he hasn’t been particularly enthusiastic about Chinese rule in the region, which he describes as “a brutal occupation“.

That Huang is a poet is mentioned pretty much everywhere he’s talked about, but this blog actually quotes his poetry from time to time.

Huang Nubo to pay $200k for a bottle of wine

Huang Nubo, the Chinese poet-tycoon who has spent three years unsuccessfully trying to buy a certain plot of Icelandic land, has set his eyes on a more modest acquisition: a bottle of wine. He’s offering $200k, enough to buy just over 770 hectares in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum. The wine in question, from 1653, is inside a barrel declared Unesco World Heritage in a cellar under the town hall in Bremen. Huang has recently started a ten-year world trip during which he intends to visit all Unesco heritage sites, and, apparently, ingest some of that heritage. Other than the cellarmaster and the mayor of Bremen, who enjoy the prerogative to sample the wine, only one person in recent memory is reported to have tasted it: Queen Elizabeth, and just a thimbleful at that.

Once he tries it, Huang might very well report about the wine in his poetry. His verses have already featured the word ‘Lafite’, or a quite close spelling of it, in the past, as I took the trouble to quote last year.

Huang Nubo hasn’t given up

Halldór Jóhannsson, Huang Nubo’s spokesman in Iceland, conveyed last week to Viðskiptablaðið his approval of the fact that the commission revising the Icelandic foreign investment legislation will produce a draft law by January, earlier than originally planned. Interior minister Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir (Independence Party) had insisted on an earlier completion of the commission’s work as a way to create an environment more receptive to foreign investors.

Some such work will indeed be necessary if Iceland is to become a bit less restrictive to foreign investment. While historically investment from other European countries is considerable in comparison to the size of the economy, when it comes to non-European investors the restrictions can be quite stringent, and, in the case of real estate, squarely prohibitive. These restrictions have prevented Mr Huang, a Chinese billionaire real estate tycoon, from purchasing a tract of barren land in the north of the country, that he would like to turn into a tourist resort. Despite all the bile exchanged, he remains committed to the project and has said in the past he will wait for Iceland to sort out their investment legislation so he can buy his plot.

Halldór’s involvement in Chinese activities in Iceland also includes helping provide the land for a Chinese-Icelandic aurora observatory.

Mr Huang’s other endeavours have recently taken him to Germany, where a volume of his poetry has just been translated under the title Kakerlaken-Kunde (something like ‘cockroach lore’). The English edition (Dorrance Publishing, 2010) is called Bunnies, which translates the original Chinese title (《小兔子》), and back in March my main article on Huang quoted one (long) verse from it:

The greatest treasure of the dead ought to be the inability of the living to know that moment of death, and the joy or pain of that moment, just like a 1981 Chateau Laffite [sic] Rothschild, the appreciation of which is greater than the desire to taste it.