‘The Songs of Birds’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Day and night,I copy the Diamond Sutraof Prajnaparamita.My writing looks more and more square.It proves that I have not gone entirelyinsane, but the tree I drewhasn’t grown a leaf.—from “I Copy the Scriptures,” in Empty ChairsEvery month, the...

‘I Try to Talk Less’: A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In late July, Chinese authorities renewed travel privileges for conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, ending a five-year prohibition following his arrest in 2011. He promptly flew to Munich and then Berlin, where he has accepted a...

China: “Capitulate or Things Will Get Worse”

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
The massacre of protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989, and the harsh repression during the months immediately following put China into a foul mood. Among ordinary Chinese, the prestige of the Communist Party, whose leaders had ordered the brutal...

Books

07.10.13

For a Song and a Hundred Songs

Liao Yiwu. Translated by Wenguang Huang
In June 1989, news of the Tiananmen Square protests and its bloody resolution reverberated throughout the world. A young poet named Liao Yiwu, who had until then led an apolitical bohemian existence, found his voice in that moment. Like the solitary man who stood firmly in front of a line of tanks, Liao proclaimed his outrage—and his words would be his weapon. For a Song and a Hundred Songs captures the four brutal years Liao spent in jail for writing the incendiary poem “Massacre.” Through the power and beauty of his prose, he reveals the bleak reality of crowded Chinese prisons—the harassment from guards and fellow prisoners, the torture, the conflicts among human beings in close confinement, and the boredom of everyday life. But even in his darkest hours, Liao manages to unearth the fundamental humanity in his cell mates: he writes of how they listen with rapt attention to each other’s stories of criminal endeavors gone wrong and of how one night, ravenous with hunger, they dream up an “imaginary feast,” with each inmate trying to one-up the next by describing a more elaborate dish. In this important book, Liao presents a stark and devastating portrait of a nation in flux, exposing a side of China that outsiders rarely get to see. In the wake of 2011’s Arab Spring, the world has witnessed for a second time China’s crackdown on those citizens who would speak their mind, like artist Ai Weiwei and legal activist Chen Guangcheng. Liao stands squarely among them and gives voice to not only his own story, but to the stories of those individuals who can no longer speak for themselves. For a Song and a Hundred Songs bears witness to history and will forever change the way you view the rising superpower of China.   —New Harvest

Prison Of The Mind: A Chinese Poet’s Memoir of Incarceration

Ian Buruma
New Yorker
Liao Yiwu, in his extraordinary prison memoir, “For a Song and a Hundred Songs,” describes the case of a schizophrenic woodcutter who had axed his own wife, because she was so emaciated that he took her for a bundle of wood. 

Prison of the Mind

Ian Buruma
New Yorker
Observing the Chinese prison system from the inside, as a “counterrevolutionary” inmate, Liao Yiwu tells us a great deal about Chinese society, both traditional and Communist. He ends his account by saying that “China remains a prison of the mind:...

A Hundred Songs: Exiled Chinese Writer Liao Yiwu’s Rare U.S. Visit

WSJ: China Real Time Report
Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, recently performed at the New York Public Library for his book's U.S. release. His years in prison are the subject of his book “For a Song and a Hundred Songs,” and is a dizzying, and often gruesomely...

Poet’s Nightmare In Chinese Prison

Elaine Sciolino
New York Times
 Chinese author and poet Liao Yiwu on his reluctant dissent, his years in a Chinese prison, his relatively new celebrity status, and living with the torutrous memories of his violent experiences. 

Mo Yan Grants First Interview Since Winning Nobel Prize

Anthony Tao
Beijing Cream
A look at the highlights from a Der Spiegel interview with Mo, covering Ai Weiwei’s and Liao Yiwu’s criticism of the author, his comments on the Cultural Revolution, and his relationship with the government. 

‘I’m Not Interested in Them; I Wish They Weren’t Interested in Me’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Amid the recent crackdown on dissidents by the Chinese government, the case of Liao Yiwu, the well-known poet and chronicler of contemporary China, is particularly interesting. For years, Liao’s work, which draws on extensive interviews with...