Jiayang Fan interviews Liao Yiwu 廖亦武, author of For a Song and a Hundred Songs, for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Interview translated into English by Liz Carter. Here’s an excerpt:
Do you think that you, as a Chinese writer, must take a stance on China’s government? Or do you think, as someone who writes literature, you do not necessarily need to have anything to do with politics?
The difference between myself and the dictatorship is a difference of aesthetics. I am a person who writes stories. The further removed from politics and power I am, the better. Unfortunately, they feel that a person who tells stories is guilty of subversion of state power. Furthermore, I didn’t want to express any political ideas in my writing. Like I just mentioned, political views can show up in a different way. Political correctness, in a book, is like standing on the side of reason, but one of the most basic things about being an intellectual is this: you must have doubt and you must ask questions, even for your own writing, yourself, your weaknesses. You have to keep that skepticism. Many writers, while describing politics or the Chinese Communist Party, stop asking questions of and being skeptical toward themselves. I think this is far removed from that sort of thing.
In the beginning of the book, you wrote that in a talk with Michael Day, a Canadian friend and one of the first foreigners you became close to in China, he really wanted you to participate in the protests at Tiananmen.
And then you asked, “Do you think you love China more than me?” That line really stayed with me.
So the last Mo Yan update from this blog will be a link to this interview with Liao Yiwu 廖亦武, who, upon being asked to compare himself with Mo Yan, who, ahem, “received the Nobel Peace in Literature,” said:
I don’t want to be compared to someone like Mo Yan. He is an official of the Communist Party. Whenever he makes a public appearance, he is representing the dictatorship. So my criticism is natural … Of course there is a happy medium; there are authors who criticize the realities of Chinese society without being political. But they aren’t on the side of the dictatorship. Mo Yan overdoes it.