My Enemies, My Teachers – Liao Yiwu

Paris Review has published a translation of the acceptance speech that writer Liao Yiwu planned to give upon accepting the Freedom to Write Award by the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) in December. The award ceremony was cancelled when police held Liao and other participants for interrogation or house arrest the day before it was slated to take place:

The Cultural Revolution started when I was attending elementary school. My father, a high-school teacher, was branded a counterrevolutionary scholar. Following his criminal conviction, my family fell apart. My mother took custody of me and my sister. We left our hometown, Yanting, and moved from place to place, undergoing countless random searches and interrogations for what the authorities called “migrating to the city without a residential permit.” When I was nine, my mother was accused of being an escaped landowner and living in the city without a permit. Members of the public security bureau took her away one night for detention and interrogation. Since then, this special Chinese terminology, “Hei-ren-hei-hu” or “Person and a family without a residential permit” has been engraved forever on my mind, becoming my second teacher in life. Perhaps in order to cleanse my inward shame at this status, I have allowed myself to sink deeper into this muddy hole of disgrace and have become acquainted with other “persons without permits.” Nowadays, scholars refer to us as “the silent majority.” [Full text]


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