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Banned Chinese Writers

November 2012

A pile of sunflower seeds on a platform in front of a brown background
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 In work that could not be published in their native country, the authors here testify to the conditions both during the Cultural Revolution and now.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.

This Country Must Break Apart
By Liao Yiwu
We are no longer poets; we have become witnesses of history.
Translated from Chinese by Siobhan O’Leary & Sophie Schlöndorff
from “Black Rock”
By Yang Xianhui
I had heard that Kou-er’s mom had eaten her youngest son.
Translated from Chinese by Wenguang Huang
November 2012 Banned Chinese Writers Sharing Xie Peng Duncan Jepson Feature
By Xie Peng & Duncan Jepson
I wanted it too . . . I would have given anything
An Interview with Yan Lianke
By Chenxin Jiang
China is a great environment for an author, because such implausible things happen in everyday life.
Translated from Chinese by the author
An Interview with Chan Koon-chung
By Chenxin Jiang
There is indeed no place like China–but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Translated from Chinese by the author
The Man with the Knife
By Chen Xiwo
He was a famous poet, so they almost all submitted.
Translated from Chinese by Nicky Harman
Death Fugue
By Sheng Keyi
Finally they dismembered him and hung his head on the city walls for a week.
Translated from Chinese by Shelly Bryant
Awakening the Individual Consciousness
By Cui Weiping
For a long time in this country, the term “individual” has carried connotations of dangerousness and even criminality.
Translated from Chinese by Kyle Fry
from “Memories of the Cowshed”
By Ji Xianlin
I knew that Zhang’s weapon must be a bicycle chain wrapped in rubber.
Translated from Chinese by Chenxin Jiang
Last of the Aristocrats
By Zhang Yihe
The Cultural Revolution created two extremes for China.
Translated from Chinese by Alice Xin Liu