China’s efforts to promote socialism in the late 1950s and early 1960s resulted in what is euphemistically known as the three years of natural disasters, during which more than 30 million people starved to death. One evening when I was a young boy, not long after the catastrophe, I followed my mother as she went to dump garbage outside the wall that surrounded our village, a poor and isolated town in central China.
Holding my hand, my mother pointed to the white clay and yellow earth of the wall, and said, “Son, you must always remember, when people are starving to death they may eat this white clay and elm tree bark, but if they try to eat that yellow earth or the bark of any other kind of tree they will die even faster.”
Mother went back inside our house to cook and left behind a long shadow.… Seguir leyendo »
In March 2012 I met Torbjorn Loden, the Swedish professor of Chinese language and culture, in Hong Kong. He told me that while briefly teaching at Hong Kong’s City University he asked the 40 students from China in his class what they knew about the June 4 Incident, the pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed in 1989, and if they were familiar with the names Liu Binyan and Fang Lizhi, two prominent democracy advocates of that era. All the students from China looked around at one another, mute and puzzled.
That reminded me of something another teacher told me. She had asked her students from China if they had heard about the death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people during the so-called “three years of natural disasters” in the early 1960s.… Seguir leyendo »
Raucous clashes triggered by the recent Sino-Japanese territorial dispute have made creative writing impossible for me. I’ve been devoting all my time to following the news, anxiously delving into every new development.
Again and again, I ask myself: What turns an interminable island dispute into a fireball? Who can put out the flames? Who can make politicians sit down to sip iced tea together and engage in calm and courteous dialogue? Where are the voices of reason?
I long for more rational voices, I long to hear from my fellow writers.
I was deeply touched after reading translations of the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s views on the territorial issues and Haruki Murakami’s recent commentary warning of the damage caused by the outbursts of nationalism.… Seguir leyendo »