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November 2012

Banned Chinese Writers

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 In work that could not be published in their native country, the authors here testify to the conditions both during the Cultural Revolution and now.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. 



Awakening the Individual Consciousness
By Cui Weiping
This essay is part of “What Kind of China do We Want?,” a project of the Foreign Policy Initiative to inform the American public about the ideas and goals of China’s intellectuals, activists…
Translated from Chinese by Kyle Fry
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
Writer Yang Xianhui traveled around China interviewing survivors of the great famine of 1959.  He circumvented government censorship by adding details and presenting the results as fiction. In this…
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
At Thinkers Café, a dimly lit café near Peking University, Yan Lianke chooses a side table with a desk lamp that flickers on and off as we speak. The outspoken author and ex-military man is strikingly…
Translated from Chinese by the author
The Man with the Knife
By Chen Xiwo
He lay back on the sofa, tipsy. She had invited him out for a meal and now they were back at her flat. He was a renowned poetry critic with a successful career. She was just an aspiring poet. He had agreed…
Translated from Chinese by Nicky Harman
from “Memories of the Cowshed”
By Ji Xianlin
Memories of the Cowshed is one of China’s top bestsellers on the Cultural Revolution. Ji Xianlin’s 1998 memoir recounts the painful and deeply disenchanting period he spent in the “cowshed,”…
Translated from Chinese by Chenxin Jiang
Life in Flames
By Ricardo Menéndez Salmón
A few years ago, just before we separated, on a summer night that was hotter than I can remember, my wife and I were sitting on our porch when a man engulfed in flames entered our garden, passed before…
Translated from Spanish by Erica Mena
Last of the Aristocrats
By Zhang Yihe
Zhang Yihe is a prominent Peking Opera scholar who was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution for writing about Jiang Qing, or Madame Mao, in her diary. She has written numerous works of nonfiction…
Translated from Chinese by Alice Xin Liu
In Our Backyard
By Dumitru Tsepeneag
Very early in the morning, Ion would help Mrs. Ignătescu put the carpets onto the frame in the yard and beat them with a switch or a stick. The dust rose and spread through the yard like mist—the…
Translated from Romanian by Patrick Camiller
An Interview with Chan Koon-chung
By Chenxin Jiang
Chan Koon-chung’s gray, shoulder-length hair is a throwback to the seventies, when Chan founded an influential cultural and alternative lifestyle magazine, City Magazine. Chan has since made a point…
Translated from Chinese by Chenxin Jiang
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