Yiyun Li on Censorship

By Eric Abrahamsen, published

Yiyun Li, award-winning author residing in America, has an essay in the San Francisco Chronicle, describing her relationship with censorship, and the filming of one of her stories, 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'.

How very fascinating, I remembered thinking. Chinese censorship has never been a secret, but as a fiction writer my imagination could not be satisfied by that simple explanation. Behind every machine there are many human faces, and for a while I would think about the people who decided my interview was not appropriate for my fellow citizens.


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“A family friend...told me after the Tiananmen Square massacre that she had never lost her faith in communism... As a rebellious 16-year-old, I argued with her, losing all respect for her. Only much later, plagued by guilt and regret, did I understand...she was revealing herself as a humane and complex person."

What gibber. Of course, as a novelist, Li has to have sympathy for the people around her, to get inside their heads. But it doesn't mean that what this friend said was right or "humane". The friend is an idiot who believes in an ideal even after all the evidence has shown that the ideal stinks. That's human, but not admirable or complex.

Phil, June 14, 2008, 1:25a.m.


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