< November 2011 - Artspace China
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November 2011

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Liao Yiwu is best-known for his book The Corpse Walker, a colourful collection of interviews with oddballs, crooks, hustlers, toilet-attendants, ex-landlords, so-called rightists, garbage-collectors, and a variety of others whose voices are rarely heard in mainstream Chinese history. First published in Taiwan in 2001, and later in a variety of languages, The Corpse Walker quickly became a bestseller in the West, its success fanned along by the news of the book’s banning in China and Liao’s uncomfortable political position back home .

Liao’s recent book, God is Red, is another collection of interviews, this time with elderly Chinese Christians whose faith has brought them into conflict with the state. Published to an eager audience in the West, God is Red will be supported with author tours and book signings not previously possible, since in July 2011 – after seventeen unsuccessful attempts to leave China – Liao Yiwu secretly emigrated to Germany.

Given his reputation as a political dissident, it would be fair to imagine Liao Yiwu as a terribly earnest person. If he is this, it doesn’t come across in a first meeting – at least not in the conversation my friend Suna Xie and I had with him in Sydney last week. More than anything, Liao made us laugh with his dry irreverence, and a tendency to see life as a series of terrific stories. Even the sinister seemed darkly amusing in Liao’s hands, as if life were a perverse comedy choreographed by money and power. Read on …

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