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This title in other editions

The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up

by

The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Foreword

To hear a new voice is one of the great excitements that a book can offer--and through Liao Yiwu we hear more than two dozen original voices that have a great deal to say. Liao is at once an unflinching observer and recorder, a shoe-leather reporter and an artful storyteller, an oral historian and deft mimic, a folklorist and satirist. Above all, he is a medium for whole muzzled swathes of Chinese society that the Party would like to pretend do not exist: hustlers and drifters, outlaws and street performers, the officially renegade and the physically handicapped, those who deal with human waste and with the wasting of humans, artists and shamans, crooks, even cannibals--and every one of them speaks more honestly than the official chronicles of Chinese life that are put out by the state in the name of "the people."

Liao was shaped as a writer by the harshest of experiences: he nearly starved to death as a child and his father was branded an enemy of the people; he was thrown in jail for writing poems that spoke truthfully about China's Communist Party and he was beaten in jail for refusing to shut up; and he discovered in jail the enormous value of listening to others like him whom the authorities wanted to keep forever unheard. So Liao writes with the courage of a man who knows loss and doesn't fear it. There is nothing to make him take notice like an official injunction against noticing, nothing to make him listen like official deafness, nothing that drives him to make us see than the blindness that Communist officialdom seeks to impose. But it is not merely defiance, and it is hardly political polemic, that drives the vitality of the stories in this collection. What makes Liao's encounters with his characters so powerful is the fact that he clearly delights in their humanity, however twisted its expression, and he shows his respect for his subjects in the most fundamental way: he lets them speak for themselves.

There is no question that Liao Yiwu is one of the most original and remarkable Chinese writers of our time. It is, however, truer to say that he is one of the most original and remarkable writers of our time, and that he is from China. Yes, his language is Chinese, his country and its people are his subject, and his stories originate from intensely local encounters. But even to someone who has never been to China, and who can know Liao's work only through Wen Huang's translations, these stories have an immediacy and an intimacy that crosses all boundaries and classifications. They belong to the great common inheritance of world literature.

Liao Yiwu is an original, but it seems a very good bet that writers as diverse as Mark Twain and Jack London, Nikolai Gogol and George Orwell, François Rabelais and Primo Levi would have recognized him at once as a brother in spirit and in letters. He is a ringmaster of the human circus, and his work serves as a powerful reminder--as vital and necessary in open societies lulled by their freedoms as it is in closed societies where telling truthful stories can be a crime--that it is not only in the visible and noisy wielders of power but equally in the marginalized, overlooked, and unheard that the history of our kind is most tellingly inscribed.

Philip Gourevitch

November 2007

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307388377
Author:
Yiwu, Liao
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Translator:
Huang, Wen
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - Human Rights
Subject:
Economic Conditions
Subject:
Anthropology - General
Subject:
Regional Studies
Subject:
Social classes
Subject:
General-General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20090531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
7.90x5.10x.80 in. .60 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Asia » China » Peoples Republic 1949 to Present
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Regional Studies
History and Social Science » Sociology » Social Classes
History and Social Science » World History » China
History and Social Science » World History » General

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