Street cleaner lives novel life

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After a long day’s street sweeping, Zhu Chaoshi puts away his broom, dusts himself off and picks up his pen.

Every evening, while other colleagues are drinking or playing cards, the 65-year-old cleaner, scribbles in his notebook at his dorm in Beijing.

One of Zhu’s works, a 300,000-character novel, even became popular on the Internet, surprising his colleagues.

In the novel “Still love in next life,” the protagonist Luo Chuan is born in rural China and seizes the opportunity of the country’s reform and opening-up and, after taking jobs of construction worker, cleaner, security guard and peddler, finally became a successful businessman, living a happy life with his family.

Zhu said his novel, which took him 20 years to finish, was inspired by his own life experience and the people around him.

“People born in the 1950s like me went through a lot, and I wanted to record it all in a novel,” Zhu said. “I also hope my story can encourage more young people in rural areas to study hard and lead their hometowns to prosperity.”

Zhu was born in rural area of Xingtai, Hebei Province, some 400 km southwest of Beijing.

His mother, despite being illiterate herself, attached great importance to Zhu’s education. Encouraged by her, Zhu grew into the hobby of reading from childhood.

At the age of 13, when Zhu’s hometown was flooded, he wrote an article describing the touching scenes of villagers and soldiers fighting against the flood.

“The article astonished my teacher. She even asked whether I had copied it before highly praising me in front of all my classmates,” he recalled, adding that the experience greatly stimulated his passion for writing.

Because of financial and other reasons, Zhu did not continue his study after graduating from high school at 19, and became a migrant worker. He had worked on construction sites before becoming a cleaner in Beijing’s Haidian District in 2016.

At first, like other workers, Zhu spent his free time drinking and playing cards, but gradually he felt such a life was boring and meaningless, so he picked up his childhood hobby again.

“He spends nearly every evening writing or reading and never wastes leisure time. We all admire his spirit of persistence very much,” said Jia Yuewu, one of his colleagues.

Most people praised him, but others, including his wife, did not understand him.

“My wife often describes me as a day-dreamer. She even threatened to separate from me if I kept writing and reading. But now, seeing that I am persistent, she has gradually got used to it,” he said with a smile.

Over the past decades, he has completed several novels of different length in his spare time, including the epic that won him online fame.

Being computer illiterate, Zhu revised the novel by hand five times before finalizing the draft. His second daughter, who has received a college education, typed up the novel and uploaded to the Internet, drawing heated discussion online.

“This novel is fresh and refined, and I really admire this cleaner uncle,” posted a netizen named “Autumn Wind.”

His daughter is contacting a number of publishers interested in her father’s work.

As he grows older and older, Zhu knows he has little chance of becoming a professional novelist, but he does not feel upset. “Compared with becoming a real writer, I enjoy the process of chasing my dream more.” Enditem

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