Last month, after threats of imprisonment by the Chinese government if he published his latest book, Liao Yiwu left China for Berlin by walking across an unnamed opening in the Vietnamese border, then traveling by train and air to Berlin. You may recall that he was denied permission to leave China by its government to attend the PEN World Voices Festival in New York in April this year, and in May he was also denied passage to Sydney, Australia for the 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Liao served four years in prison after publishing his poem, “Massacre,” critical of the killings in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He later published The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up, a collection of profiles of fellow prisoners he had met, told in question and answer form. His latest book, God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, will be published in the US in September 2011. He also recently released a memoir of his life in prison, published to an eager audience in Germany. (It will be published in English next year.) Germany, with its vigilant attention to history, seems to be becoming a place of refuge for writers and artists.
Ian Johnson recently interviewed Liao for The New York Review of Books. When Johnson asks Liao, who is not a Christian, about his subject for the upcoming book, Liao answers: “Me, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t have a definite plan. I had this opportunity to meet the Christians and it moved me so I did it.”
If you are fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of New York on September 13, you can buy tickets now to hear Liao read, perform on his xiao, a Chinese flute, and be interviewed onstage by Philip Gourevich at The New School.