Reading for Li Bifeng


Lesung für Li Bifeng

What is Chinese literature about? What is art about, in any medium, time or place? The reading for the imprisoned underground poet and activist Li Bifeng on June 3rd, 2013 in Vienna will include works by a diverse range of authors. Li Bifeng has become known through his association with Liao Yiwu, the exiled poet and documentary writer, now in Berlin. On his own, judging from his available work and his literary impact in China, even in dissident circles, Li Bifeng would not have become famous. This doesn’t mean he is not worth reading. But he has had little opportunity to find an audience, and not everything that is available online now is as compelling as Liao Yiwu’s signature poem Massacre, or any other famous piece of writing in Chinese. Actually, none of the works by Li Bifeng I have read up to now sound very dissident at all. They are “just art”, so to speak. He could have published them, as a different person.

I am currently translating a long poem by Li Bifeng into English, and have translated several small texts into German. Two of these will appear in the literary journal Wienzeile this summer in bilingual fashion. The artist Sara Bernal is supporting the reading on June 3rd with a display of paintings.

What other texts will be read at Vienna University on June 3rd?

On May 3rd, 2013, we had a very interesting workshop and discussion at Vienna University’s East Asia Institute, on literature in Korea, China and Japan. It was initiated by Lena Springer, who invited Zhang Chengjue 張成覺, expert on the year 1957 and the so-called Anti-Rightists-Campaign in China. Zhang and Springer were inspired by Lu Xun expert Qian Liqun from Peking University, who called for research on the late 1950s in China across disciplines. The workshop in Vienna was about censorship, political changes, publishing conditions and (self-)perceptions of artistic quality. Professor Schirmer told us about a debate in South Korea 45 years ago, in 1968. A big-wig critic who became culture minister later published an essay, lamenting the lame state of Korean literature. A poet responded and said he had poems that could not be published, and his friends also had literature that could not be published because it would be considered dangerous, unstable, unsettling. 不穩。The critic said he didn’t understand. Surely good art would be independent of politics and would only need imagination and talent? Not so, the poet replied. Art is potentially unsettling, if it is powerful art at all. The critic didn’t get it again. Sounded very much like Prof. Kubin and his friends in China. Also like Taiwan 30 years ago, of course.

維也納大學遠東語言文化系在今年五月三日剛進行了文學討論會,主要談不同政權、時代的言論情況。張成覺講1957年中國『反右』,朝鮮半島語言文化系的人談了在二十幾年前在韓國的文學討論,有以後當文化部長的評論家寫文章大講韓語文學敗退,非常像顧彬對當代中國文學的廢話。有一位作家回答那以後當部長的評論家說他的抽屜裡有不能刊登的詩,而他朋友有不能出版的文章。那時候韓國聽起來像國民黨獨裁的台灣,書店有希特勒的書,但如果你家裡有馬克思你會下獄。不過那位作家不用這樣說,只需說他的詩不能刊登,因為好的文學從來都是『不穩』的 。

日本語文化系有人談當代日本語文學的討論,也有老頭藐視他後代的文學和比較年輕的作家談當地政治、社會問題跟文學的關聯。『年輕人』是沖縄県來的目取真俊, Medoruma, Shun, 1960.10.6 -。老頭是大江 健三郎。他支持研究大量沖繩島嶼人在二戰結束時被迫自殺的歷史真相。所以他一點都不像韓國的評論家支持維穩。只是藐視他後代的文學。日本語文化系還有其他人講日本三十年代初檢查雜誌和『伏字』的現象。


中文系並且提供關於朦朧詩人北島、舒婷、顧城的感人講話,還有講《天雲山傳奇》這部電影的技術和觀眾成功的現象。 總共說非常值得組織遠東系一塊談文學,大榭張成覺,Lena Springer 和所有參加的專家!



Besides works by Li Bifeng, the reading for Li Bifeng in Vienna will include texts by Li Khin-huann (Taiwan), Shih Ming-te and Shih Ming-cheng (Taiwan), famous fiction writer Liu Zhenyun (Henan, Beijing), the female migrant worker poet Zheng Xiaoqiong (Dongguan), famous iconoclastic poet Yi Sha (Xi’an) and last but not least Zhao Siyun, whose poem for June 5th was introduced by Michael Day on the MCLC list in 2010. Maybe also “Farewell to the 20th century” by Song Tik-lai, if we have time. Or other stuff from Taiwan and other places.


Liao Yiwu, Meng Huang and Maria Rosen: A performance in Stockholm

Mo Yan and Liao Yiwu

Stephane Hessel and the state of the air


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一条回应 to “Reading for Li Bifeng”

  1. ABOUT | 中国大好き Says:

    […] What is Chinese literature about? Exile, inner exile. Inside China, banished. Happened to many poets through the ages, including the most famous. Teaching Latin in a high school in Vienna, a friend of our uses Du Fu. Du Fu, Brecht, Theodor Kramer, Guido Zernatto. She teaches Latin, so exile comes from Ovid. Epistulaes ex ponto. From Casablanca. No, it’s that port city on the Black Sea, in Romania. Constantza. Like Tristan Tzara. Z or S? Whatever. Du Fu. They use an old edition from the 1930s. Brought into verse by H. Not just translated, not directly. That’s how they used to do it. Gustav Mahler’s Song of the Earth came from Li Bai, Wang Wei and Meng Haoran, through many versions in different languages in between. Mahler wrote the final versions to fit his music. Two poems by different poets merged into one, at the end. No, that Du Fu edition is very accurate, from the feel of it. Two great volumes, large and thick. Not rhymed. But rather formal. Not luosuo. No superfluos words. Hardly. Again, from the feel of it, I haven’t checked, just listened and read. Listened, our friends read well. Very down-to-earth, daily details. Ants, chicken. Fencing in chicken, thinking about it. A reference to the times, the circumstances. Suddenly becoming political, as our friend says. Towards the end. A moral at the end, maybe more in this German version than in Chinese. Circumstances, Du Fu’s circumstances. He always complains, says our friend. Very down-to-earth, very daily life. Strife, poverty, famine. Starving on the streets. We have a master’s thesis on Tang Poetry social critique in Vienna, from 1990. Anna Maria Eigner. Bai Juyi, many different poets. Li Shangyin wrote a lot about poverty in the countryside. Not in is most famous poems, unfortunately. […]


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