I’m pleased to share with readers of Terrain.org, who may have caught my blog posts about my travels through East Asia last year, that two versions of my profile of Chinese writer and people’s historian Liao Yiwu have been published this month, in the print edition of The Progressive (also featuring contributions from David Sedaris, Jim Hightower and Dave Zirin), and in expanded online form on Counterpunch, here.
Liao is an incredibly important figure. His first book to be translated into English, The Corpse Walker, was a collection of 27 startlingly raw and unexpected literary interviews with mostly older people on the margins of Chinese society, who were directly impacted by the horrors of life under Mao Zedong. Several of his other books, including Earthquake Insane Asylum, chronicling the invisible and uncounted following the disastrous 2008 Sichuan earthquake, have been published in Taiwan and Hong Kong, though pressures from China are having an impact there as well; the Taiwanese publisher of Liao’s books is politically aligned with the KMT in Taiwan, a party broadly in favor of closer ties with mainland China, and has discontinued the publication of Liao’s inflammatory work in the country.
He was due to visit the U.S. for the first time this year, but as the Chinese government has responded to fears of insurrection like that unfolding in the Middle East, it has arrested numerous prominent Chinese activists, artist and writers, including Ai Weiwei, Ran Yunfei, and Tan Zuoren. In this wave of repression Liao has not been arrested, but his permission to leave the country was revoked on April 1st, at the last possible moment.
Please do check out my expanded profile of Liao, and, if you’re able, please do let potentially interested people know, as Liao’s opportunity to come to the U.S. and speak to people and share his stories in person has been denied.