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For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prisonby Yiwu Liao
Synopses & Reviews
WINNER OF THE 2012 GERMAN BOOK TRADE PEACE PRIZE
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 others 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 2011s Arab Spring, the world has witnessed for a second time Chinas 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.
"Exiled Chinese poet Liao (God Is Red) recounts in redolent prose his politicization and imprisonment in the wake of the 1989 government crackdown on the democracy movement centered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Liao was leading a bohemian life amid a lively literary scene in Sichuan Province when news of Tiananmen provoked him to record and distribute his spontaneous protest poem, 'Massacre.' He soon launched a film project, Requiem, with a handful of colleagues, most of whom were netted in the aftermath of his 1990 arrest, along with other artists. The bulk of the memoir concerns Liao's four-year imprisonment at a series of facilities in the harrowing Chongqing prison system, in which he is usually the rare ''89er' among underprivileged and uneducated criminals. Liao fiercely struggles to maintain his dignity and merely endure, despite little information from his wife (pregnant at the time of his arrest) and family. As his case limps along, scenes of cruelty and degradation are juxtaposed with acts of compassion and moments of release, as in portraits of cellmates and episodes such as the marathon of forced singing that gives the book its title. This vivid and lyrical memoir, a future classic, should have wide appeal as a consummate insider account of Chinese state terror. Agent: Peter W. Bernstein, Bernstein Literary Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the renowned Chinese poet in exile comes a gorgeous and shocking account of his years in prison following the Tiananmen Square protests.
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.
About the Author
Liao Yiwu is a writer, musician, and poet from Sichuan, China. He is a critic of the Chinese regime, for which he has been imprisoned, and the majority of his writings are banned in China. Liao is the author of The Corpse Walker and God Is Red. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the prestigious 2012 Peace Prize awarded by the German Book Trade and the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis in 2011 for the publication of his memoir in Germany.
Wenguang Huang is a writer, journalist, and translator whose articles and translations have appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Chicago Tribune, The Paris Review, Asia Literary Review, and The Christian Science Monitor. He also translated Liaos The Corpse Walker. In 2007, Huang received a PEN Translation Fund grant. Born in China, he currently lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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