Liao Yiwu detained in China

As has been reported in The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and elsewhere, the writer Liao Yiwu was detained at an airport in Sichuan Province on his way to Germany to attend lit.Cologne, one of the largest literary festivals in Europe.

Liao Yiwu is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) and the author of the internationally acclaimed book The Corpse Walker: Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up, which was inspired by the oral histories of Studs Terkel. The English translation by Wen Huang was partly funded by a grant from the PEN Translation Fund, and chapters of the book were published in The Paris Review. You can listen to Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch read from the book here, and you can listen to Katie Fishman reading an essay by Yiwu, “My Enemies, My Teachers,” here. (Update: Gourevitch writes about Liao’s detention for the “News Desk” blog at The New Yorker.)

According to the Times, Liao “had been warned in recent days not to attend the Festival, but insisted on exercising his right to travel freely. He was held at a detention center and questioned by police for three hours before he was permitted to go home. He is now under house arrest.”

After the Tiananmen Square protests, Liao wrote an epic poem, “Massacre,” and recorded himself reading it. The poem got him four years in prison. This is the thirteenth time he’s been detained by the Chinese goverment.

In an email to PEN American Center, Liao said: “Words alone cannot express my outrage. I’m a writer and never considered myself a political dissident. But Liu Xiaobo was right when he said, ‘To gain and preserve your freedom and dignity, there is no other way except to fight.’”

(The drawing of Liao Yiwu above, done over a newspaper article about his writing, is by Larry Roibal; click to enlarge.)

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