Friday 21 December 2012

Liao, Yiwu "Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs"

Liao, Yiwu "Testimonials or: For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison" (Chinese: 證詞/Zheng-Ci) - 2000

I read the expanded German translation of a Chinese book by Yiwu Liao "Für ein Lied und hundert Lieder: Ein Zeugenbericht aus chinesischen Gefängnissen". He just received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis). The book "describes the horrific treatment of Liao Yiwu and other political prisoners in a Chongqing prison who were arrested after the June 4, 1989 crackdown".

It's terrifying to read what people in Chinese prisons have to go through. This is a good book to read but with horrible pictures of what they do to each other. It's hardly believable that human beings can be like that.

What a tragic report of so many lives lost and wasted. At times, I thought, "Do I really want to know all this?" But then I carried on because if people can endure those tortures, we should at least make an effort to know about it. How much can a person endure?

There is also a lot of poetry in this book since Yiwu Liao is a poet, and a lot of Chinese history and literature, information about Chinese life and thinking. My favourite proverb mentioned: "Distant water won't quench your immediate thirst".

From the back cover:

"In the spring of 1989, news of the Tiananmen Square protests and their bloody resolution reverberated throughout the world. A young poet named Liao Yiwu, who had up until then lead an apolitical bohemian existence, found his voice in that moment, and, like the solitary man who stood firmly in front of a line of tanks, Liao proclaimed his outrage - only his weapon would be his words. Liao's memoir, For a Song and a Hundred Songs, captures the four dehumanizing years he spent in jail for writing the incendiary poem 'Massacre'. Through the power and beauty of his prose, he reveals the brutal 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. Hailed by Philip Gourevitch as 'one of the most original and remarkable Chinese writers of our time,' Liao presents a stark and devastating portrait of a nation in flux, exposing a side of China that outsiders rarely ever get to see. This honest account and witness to history will forever change the way you view the rising superpower of China."

Yiwu Liao received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2012.

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