Archive for the ‘June 2013’ Category


六月 28, 2013

taikonauts_return Yi Sha Vater FAZ 13-06-27

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2013-06-27 page 25

Yi Sha

under mao zedong
we had starry nights
we had vast starry skies
people lifting their heads
one summer night
it was father and i
father told me
about the universe
about a cosmonaut
yuri gagarin
flying in space
my mouth stood open
like a barn door
thank you, father
my heavenly father
in a dark corner
of north korea
measuring 9,600,000
square kilometers
among hundreds of millions
malnourished blockheads
i was the smartest
did not see the future
but i saw space


Tr. MW, 2013

Shenzhou 10 news videos (BBC)

Taikonauts Dragonboat Tiangong shenzou-capsule




Tiangong lecture

Wang Yaping 王亞平 teaching from space

Concentrating on private impressions and conversations in published poems is self-evident for many, maybe for most people who read, write, translate, edit such stuff. But China, and also Taiwan to a certain extent, have put into question art, books, beauty, skills, traditions, language- anything had to serve the Party, and what the Party couldn’t use could not exist. Capitalism does it too, everything that doesn’t pay, that we can’t finance, cannot remain. They get along splendidly, finance and centralized state, Mao and the Mammon. That’s how the modern world was developed.


“Beneath our feet, we couldn’t see through dust and ash, rank growth of old. Father holding his iron staff, asking me: ‘Are you afraid?’ Oh, I raised my head, Orion sparkling right in the middle, space reverberations sounding from eons– falling silently, are those meteors, one blue whiplash after the other?” 流星記事, Meteor Account, or Meteor Accounts, by Zhu Fengming 祝凤鸣 (Oct. 1996). Nick Kaldis just showed me his translation of Meteor Account, from a dozen Chinese poems in the magazine Dirty Goat (#24 February 2011).The quote above is in my own translation, I couldn’t resist. Rank growth of old – 古蟒 or 古莽? Nick Kaldis thinks there might be a misprint. (“古蟒 would refer to a snake known from fossil remains, the Paleopython, while 古莽 refers to rank grass.”). 祝凤鸣,男,1964年生于安徽宿松县… Zhu Fengming (born 1964) is a geologist from Anhui.




















The existence of space. Of God(s). Yin-yang, fengshui. Existence of wonder. Or the other way, wonder of existence. Outside the Party. Very much among the common people on the other hand, in the countryside, barefoot doctors, and so on, in the rest of Zhu Fengming’s poem.
Yes, 蟒 (mang3) may be a misprint for the homophonous character 莽 (mang3). 古莽之國, the ancient uncultured state. The Book of Liezi. 古莽之國,出《列子周穆王第三》,屬迺古三國。三國者何也?古莽之國、中央之國、阜落之國也。蓋處天地之外、神話之中,事未可徵,史未可考。古莽之地,陰陽不交,寒暑不辨;民不衣不食而多眠,五旬一覺,而以夢為真,真為妄也。(Wikipedia)

Space, spaceflight. A great achievement. “Sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it we are sending people to the moon.” Prince, Sign o’ the Times. Really, I think they should have written more about this in the international papers. Yes, it worked, no-one died, Wang Yaping 王亞平 teaching from space, tens of millions watching and listening to her. A great leap, a giant leap, really. Responsibility, great responsibility. How many things could go wrong, in space, for the nation. Planning everything, the very opposite of wu wei. That’s how the famine came. No space for real wondering. Everything organized, all propaganda, all of the nation. They are planning, they have begun to move hundreds of millions more to the cities. Destroying small farms, villages, settlements, temples. Like they destroyed the ancient cities.

They should write about spaceflight, every time. I have to get back to my daughter. Show her the videos from Shenzhou 10.

Yi Sha’s poem is from 2003, from the beginning of these missions 10 years ago.

An old song about moon flights (via Nick Kaldis)

Kosice (科西策)

六月 23, 2013

Kosice diary

Lovely town. Sleepy. Great central square. Or main street. Everybody out there on Friday night, who is not in the other beer gardens. Or begging. First rain-free night in ages, maybe. Rivers all full. Still chilly, just a little. Blankets on the seats outside. Great cathedral, we haven’t been inside yet. They had a great mass, with TV. People standing on the steps outside, and kneeling. Wonder how it was under Socialism. Much sleepier? Sleep of reason breeds … how does that go? What reason? Goya. Modernism, Kosice Modernism. An exhibition advertised around town, or a book, or an event. In Slovak, so I’m not sure. 。。。(click for more)

Olomouc diary

Brno poem (We don’t know where the light comes from)

Trebic poem (Typical Central European town, Jewish heritage etc.)

2011 poem (a year of protests, dissidents…)


六月 7, 2013

What is Chinese literature about? Exile, inner exile. Inside China, banished. Happened to many poets through the ages, including the most famous. Or voluntary exile, to be somewhere else, not among the people. 别有天地非人間。Teaching Latin in a high school in Vienna, a friend of our uses Du Fu 杜甫. 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 馬勒 Song of the Earth 大地之歌 came from Li Bai 李白 (Li Tai-po), Wang Wei 王維 and Meng Haoran 孟浩然, 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 羅嗦. 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 白居易, many different poets. Li Shangyin 李商隐 wrote a lot about poverty in the countryside. Not in is most famous poems, unfortunately.

Daddy, who is this?
He is called Li Bifeng. I just translated a poem by him. He is in prison. They are all in prison. This one is a writer, too.
Why is he in prison?
He took part in protests, demonstrations. Demonstration, you remember what that is? Yes, we were in one together this year.
Where is this?
This is in China.
What else did he do?
He organized strikes. Do you know what strikes are?
Strikes are when workers in a factory say they won’t work, all of them. To get better pay. To get insurance, you know what that is? When you are sick, to get money from insurance so you can get a doctor, go to hospital.

Daddy, are there any places with no government?
Good question. There are some places where women are in charge. They own the land, they run things. Used to. Sometimes still do. Places in China.
Well, they should. Women are important. Women bear children.
I don’t know if there are any places with no government. There are some places with not many people at all. Deserts, mountains.

A Yu (born 1994)

he jumped from the top of the building
he was dead
it wasn’t like he had seen it
on tv
on tv
the contractor who owed migrant workers
when he heard someone would jump
right away he came out with his pay
but this time
no-one held him back
that’s how he died

Tr. MW, 2013
A Yu Doku

Worldwide Reading

六月 1, 2013

WWR Li Bifeng Plakat

In the summer of 1992, in a vegetable garden on the roof of a shed housing inmates of the Sichuan Province Prison # 1, I spent three days alone with the old prisoner Zhang Fafu, who had been transferred to this prison at Nanchong from forced labor at a coal mine. Our task was to build a wall out of plastic parts and wire at the side where the roof garden faced the bathing pool, to prevent other prisoners from secretly watching the women taking their baths down below. I got this assignment at that time because my sentence was short, I was working at the kiosk of my unit and wasn’t considered a common criminal. So the cadre chose that old prisoner from the coal mine and me.

From the second day on he told me everything about himself. From his talking, I could feel the jolts in his soul. He had attended high school before Liberation in 1949, he loved reading and understood a lot of things; he even liked poetry. He asked me so often until I had no choice but to give him one of the poems I had written. A few days later, I was transferred. After I arrived at Prison # 3, someone from # 1 came to go over my accounts. That’s when I heard something happened to Zhang Fafu. He had taken the plastic parts from our wall, tied them to is arms and jumped from a building. He wasn’t dead, but he became a vegetable.

I don’t know if he read my poem. Later, when I was released from Prison # 3 upon completion of my sentence, I stuffed the original manuscript of this poem into a bamboo flute I had got from Liao Yiwu, and blocked the hole at the bottom with soap. This way I got to take the poem with me. All these years, whenever I think of Zhang Fafu, I think of our plastic wall. It’s not the same as the wall in my poem, but now I cannot separate the poem from Zhang Fafu.

Tr. MW, 2013

Translator’s note: Li Bifeng’s NOTE and the following poem ( are part of his novel Wings In The Sky (天空中的翅膀). One chapter is available on the LIBIFENG2012 WordPress site. The main characters are an old prisoner, a bird and a woman who lives in a shed not far from the prison with her daughter. The plot is rather interesting.

Reading for Li Bifeng

五月 28, 2013


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

Li Bifeng

五月 28, 2013
Painting by Sara Bernal (mixed media, 2013)

Painting by Sara Bernal (mixed media, 2013)

– in Cologne on June 5th, in Vienna on June 3rd (

By calling for a worldwide reading on 4 June 2013 for the Chinese underground poet, Li Bifeng, the international literature festival berlin is demanding that the Chinese government release him from prison.

The poet and campaigner for democracy, Li Bifeng, wrote a report in 1998 about a courageous group of textile workers who blockaded a Chinese motorway and sent a video recording of it to foreign human rights organisations. In 1989, after he had been involved in the protest on Tiananmen Square and on the run for six months, Li Bifeng was captured and sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for ³economic crimes². In November 2012, the 48-year-old was sentenced to another 12 years, with no good reason, without evidence and despite worldwide protests. The authorities
suspect him of having helped his friend, the author Liao Yiwu and holder of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade 2012, to escape to Germany in 2011.

In the short phases in which Li Bifeng has been able to write, he has written numerous poems, prose texts and plays as well as a novel. On the anniversary of the massacre on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, which took place on 4 June 1989, the Peter-Weiss Foundation for Art and Politics e.V. and the international literature festival berlin have initiated a
worldwide reading for Li Bifeng.
Appeal, texts by and about Li Bifeng:,
Some new translations into English and German

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