NY Review of Books: Bringing Censors to the Book Fair
What has caused a bitter public wrangle in London is that Beijing did not only choose—with the full approval of the fair itself and of the British Council—which writers to bring to the fair. In a disturbing repeat of what happened at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009, it also excluded some of China’s best-known writers. Among these are two Nobel Prize winners: Gao Xingjian, China’s only Literature Prize laureate, who lives in nearby Paris, and Liu Xiaobo, the Peace Prize winner who is now serving out an eleven-year prison sentence. More scandalous still, not one of China’s diaspora poets and novelists was invited, even though most of the country’s most distinguished writers live abroad.
“We must be very powerful and they are frightened of us,” Qi Jiazhen, a fiery, seventy-year-old writer told me, at a meeting of Chinese writers in London to protest the fair’s corrupt invitation list. “That is why they won’t let us into the fair.”