Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Taipei, Chinese Writers Debate about Misery Literature

by Din Wenling (news.chinatimes.com, April 11, 2008)

[In translation]

TAIPEI – What is the definition of "misery literature"? What form of literature can best convey misery? What belief should be upheld by exile poets and misery literature writers? The "Writers at Taipei" event, led by exile poet Bei Ling, invited Chinese writers from Australia, America, and China to discuss and debate on the topic of misery literature.

"Misery literature shouldn't be grievances only. If a writer has political or ideological mysophobia, is unwilling to gamble his own fate, or is unprepared for exile at any time, then he doesn't deserve to be called a misery literature writer," said Inner Mongolian novelist Yuan Hongbing, author of Freedom in Sunset and Premature Death of Literature.

Yuan said he always reminds himself of such. He fiercely oppugned writer Meng Lang, founder of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, because two years ago, while in exile in Boston, Meng Lang dared to publish a book in mainland China.

In response, Meng Lang said he never considered himself to have the status of a writer-in-exile, and called himself only "a writer with an exile flavor." Meng Lang said: "Although mainland China does not have freedom of speech, I am willing to use whatever means, including publishing books, to broaden any crack in thought control. I also don't think a dissent writer should relinquish opportunities to publish books in the mainland."

Bei Ling then slammed the Chinese government's literature policy that lauds some writers. He believed that "besides Wang Anyi, Mo Yan etc, there are many excellent writers with free souls. The mainland government's approach is to marginalize those unconstrained writers."

Poet Yan Li, who has been operating an underground literary magazine in China for decades, asserted that "Insistence on independent writing is the most necessary attitude for an intellectual. Literature should not be kidnapped by political interest, much less by the capitalist market economy." He revealed that many excellent poets in mainland China couldn't join the Chinese Writers Association, because the authorities only liked writers who didn't write about contentious subjects.

Fu Zhengming has been concentrating on Tibet issues for a long time, and edited Selected Poems by Tibetans in Exile and Poems from the Snow Land. He jeered at those writers and scholars who frequently showed up in China's TVs as the government's propaganda tools.

The participating writers gibed each other, so sharply it accelerated the pulse. Interestingly, the poets and writers originally planned to walk to Freedom Square and recite their work aloud on the way, interacting with passersby, even intending "not to exclude naked running." However, this interaction did not happen, perhaps because of their introverted personalities. Only their heated arguing attracted some sidelong glances. After arriving at Freedom Square, they read their work for about half an hour and did nothing surprising.

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