Saturday, July 19, 2008

China memories

Howard French on an oral history of China:
Master Deng's life, and almost every other oral history in Liao Yiwu's new book, appropriately subtitled Real-Life Stories, China From the Bottom Up, gives the lie to this entire vision, making this a deeply subversive book. I do not mean the reader should expect a tract or treatise on Chinese politics. Instead, Liao casts aside the official "facts" of events and replaces them with "memories"--with the resulting contrast between the censored record and interior consciousness revealing a post-1949 China that has never stopped being a traumatic place. At their root, all of Liao's "real-life" stories share something fundamental: a fantastic, dreamy and nightmarish quality.