Image: Ai Weiwei, "Sunflower Seeds," 2010; Ceramic, 500 kg; On exhibition at White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney; Courtesy of the artist and White Rabbit Collection
China's role in the global economy is expanding, but its writers continue to struggle with censorship and restrictions. This month we're presenting fiction, nonfiction, and essays by banned Chinese writers. In work that could not be published in their native country, the authors here testify to the conditions both during the Cultural Revolution and now. We open with Liao Yiwu's impassioned acceptance speech for the Peace Prize for the German Book Trade, just awarded in mid October. Yang Xianhui exposes the hideous truth of the Great Famine, and Xie Peng and Duncan Jepson contribute a graphic portrait of gluttony. Chenxin Jiang interviews censored authors Yan Lianke and Chan Koon-chung. In fiction, Chen Xiwo depicts scheming poets, and Sheng Keyi describes a paradise turned dark. Activist Cui Weiping urges individual action. And in two memoirs of the Cultural Revolution, the late Ji Xianlin recalls his torture and imprisonment, and Zhang Yihe records a clandestine meeting between the top two Rightists.
Elsewhere, in fiction by two writers from the New Literature from Europe Festival, Spain's Ricardo Menéndez Salmón sees a marriage go down in flames, and Romania's Dumitru Tsepeneag witnesses a backyard transformation.
This Country Must Break Apart
We are no longer poets; we have become witnesses of history.
from “Black Rock”
I had heard that Kou-er’s mom had eaten her youngest son.
An Interview with Yan Lianke
China is a great environment for an author, because such implausible things happen in everyday life.
The Man with the Knife
He was a famous poet, so they almost all submitted
Awakening the Individual Consciousness
For a long time in this country, the term “individual” has carried connotations of dangerousness and even criminality.
from “Memories of the Cowshed”
I knew that Zhang’s weapon must be a bicycle chain wrapped in rubber.
Finally they dismembered him and hung his head on the city walls for a week.
Last of the Aristocrats
The Cultural Revolution created two extremes for China.
An Interview with Chan Koon-chung
There is indeed no place like China – but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.