MuXin, 1927–2011

By Susan Harris

Chinese writer and painter MuXin died December 21. MuXin was born in 1927 in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province, to an wealthy, aristocratic family. Like most intellectuals in the late 1940s, he rallied around Mao Zedong’s vision for a new China, but he quickly became disillusioned. Between the Communist victory in 1949 and the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, his family was dispersed, imprisoned, or killed and their estate destroyed. MuXin was imprisoned for eighteen months between 1971 and 1972 in a Shanghai “people’s prison.” In solitary confinement in the basement of an air raid shelter he composed a sixty-six-page compilation, now known as the “prison notes,” which he wrote on paper supplied for enforced “self-criticism.” He hid the notes in the cotton padding of his prison clothes. After his release from prison, he remained under house arrest to 1979; he left China for the US in 1982, but returned in 2006. WWB published several of his stories and an illuminating, gnomic interview conducted by his translator, Toming Jun Liu. This year New Directions published MuXin's first book in English, An Empty Room and Other Stories, in Toming Jun Liu's translation. A memorial will be held December 24 in Wuzhen; his ashes will be interred there.


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