Clair Armitstead/Ma Jian: ‘Freedom can’t be taken for granted. We have to remain constantly vigilant’

Ma Jian: ‘Freedom can’t be taken for granted. We have to remain constantly vigilant’

Interviu by Clair Armitstead

 Novelist Ma Jian for Review. Photo by Linda Nylind. 25/10/2018.

 ‘Everyone thought economic expansion meant China would become increa­singly like the west, but that has been a catastrophic miscalculation’ … the novelist Ma Jian. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

The exiled Chinese writer on the murder of dissidents, attacks on free speech and his new novel exposing the brutality of his homeland

In an era of growing political impunity, when dissidents are murdered on foreign soil and even the head of Interpol is not immune from being “disappeared”Ma Jian seems almost recklessly brave. Could there be a more provocative title than that given by the exiled novelist to his latest satirical onslaught on the country of his birth? For, with China Dream, he co-opts the rhetoric of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping to tell the story of a politician who is driven mad by memories of his own corruption.

Xi first used the phrase shortly after becoming general secretary of the Communist party in 2012, and Ma has responded “in a rush of rage” with a short, ferocious novel about the way turbo-capitalism and authoritarianism have combined to inform a Chinese dream that excludes all but a chosen few. “I wanted to give myself the challenge of encapsulating everything in as few words as possible,” he says, wryly adding that it will be interesting to see how the Chinese authorities react to the novel, given that they’ve outlawed so many “key words” online – “even the name Winnie-the-Pooh is banned because people joked that Xi Jinping resembled him”.

A momentary silence falls as we consider the surreal possibility of the “paramount leader” being forced to ban his own slogan. But the reality, Ma acknowledges, is that censorship is now so all-encompassing that the novel will very probably not be allowed to exist in Chinese, even in Hong Kong, which has historically provided a toehold for work by dissident authors banned on the mainland.

Ma Jian

 ‘Today’s China is more extreme than anything George Orwell could have imagined’ … Ma Jian. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

In a tranquil London cafe, close to the home he shares with his translator and partner Flora Drew and their four children, the risks this slight, 65-year-old writer is taking are hard to comprehend. Despite living in the UK for 17 years, he does not speak English. It’s not as if he hasn’t tried, says Drew, who translates our interview, but he has a stubborn devotion to his mother tongue and remains more engaged with goings-on in China than those in his adopted country. “Living in the west allows me to see through the fog of lies that shrouds my homeland,” he writes in the foreword to China Dream. During the interview, he invokes Dante’s Divine Comedy: “It’s only through being expelled that the poet gets to see heaven and hell and purgatory.”

It was a perspective forced on him from his earliest days, as one of five children born into a well-to-do family in the provincial city of Qingdao in 1953. A childhood in which he had already shown promise as an artist came to an abrupt end with the start of the Cultural Revolution. He was 13 years old. His art teacher was persecuted as a “rightist” and his grandfather, a landlord and tea connoisseur, was executed. At 15, he joined an arts propaganda troupe, beginning an adult life that would take him through various industrial assignments to a job as a photojournalist. He married a dancer and had the regulation single child. Then a photography prize brought him to the attention of the authorities and he was transferred to work for the foreign propaganda unit of the Federation of Trade Unions in Beijing.

FIRST USE SAT REV NOV 2018 Novelist Ma Jian for Review. Photo by Linda Nylind. 25/10/2018.

 ‘When a regime is trying to hurt a person’s physical being, at the heart of it is an attempt to crush their soul’ … Ma Jian. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

There, living in a “one‑bed shack”, he connected with a buzzy young community of writers and artists. Officially, he worked as a journalist. Unofficially, he made and occasionally sold paintings. “Mostly they were stolen, but a man from the US embassy bought one for $40,” he recalls. “My hair was encrusted with oil paint and the walls were papered with my paintings.”

In 1983, just as he turned 30, he hit the crisis that would upend his life. Divorced from his wife, who forbade him to make contact with his daughter, he was arrested for “spiritual pollution”. Though Ma was released, his shack was ransacked and his canvases ripped up. “I never painted again,” he says. “I saw what a fragile medium it was, and how vulnerable to abuse and persecution, and I asked myself what was I going to do for the rest of my life?”

In his attempt to answer this question he converted to Buddhism and set off on a three-year journey across China on foot. At first, he was afraid even to record what he witnessed in his notebook, in case it fell into the wrong hands, but gradually, he says, “I saw that through literature I could paint my own reality. I could record history.”

He arrived in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to find a people whose traditions had been corrupted by poverty and political oppression even as they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their “liberation” to the status of autonomous region. In 1987, Ma poured his impressions into a collection of short stories, belatedly published in English as Stick Out Your Tongue. It was immediately banned by the Chinese censors, sending him into an exile from which he has never permanently returned, though until six years ago he was allowed to visit China, and continues to keep in close contact with friends and family.

He turns up for the interview with a dramatically bandaged thumb, the result of an accident while building a shed in his garden, the explanation of which leads on to one of his latest frustrations. He had written a letter to one of his brothers inviting him to come over to help, he says, “but during this time there was a huge demo of disgruntled veterans demanding higher benefits, so the whole town had been sealed off and surrounded by armed police. No information was able to get in or out, so the letter has probably been handed over to the authorities. What happened there shows how today’s China is more extreme than anything George Orwell could have imagined, because these events don’t even reach public consciousness: it’s as if they never happened.”

It is not only China that troubles Ma today. “The world is becoming increasingly unsafe,” he says. “Just look at what happened to Jamal Khashoggi: within the space of seven minutes we saw the triumph of barbarism over civilisation. But this is happening every day in China. Everyone thought we could ignore what happened in 1989 [the Tiananmen Square massacre] and that economic expansion meant it would become increasingly like the west, but that has been a catastrophic miscalculation. China might have draped itself in a coat of prosperity, but inside it’s become more brutal than ever, and it’s this venomous combination of extreme authoritarianism and extreme capitalism which has infected countries around the world.”

Totalitarianism not only seeks to control the thought but also the body in which those thoughts are housed──Ma Jian

Erasure of memory is the abiding theme of Ma’s work, whether through the literal motif of an unconscious man in his epic 2008 novel Beijing Comaset around Tiananmen Square, or through the allegorical pursuit of a recipe for “Old Lady Broth of Amnesia” to which the municipal leader Ma Daode devotes himself in China Dream, tormented by a past in which he drove his own parents to suicide by denouncing them. “The process of dragging back memories that are being constantly erased, especially from my position of exile, makes even more important to me the primacy of memory,” Ma says, “and how it not only involves a nation’s sense of history but a person’s sense of self.”

His satire is always firmly located in violations of the human body. Stick Out Your Tongue told stories of ritual rape and multi-generational incest. In his 2013 novel, The Dark Road, aborted late-term foetuses are carried around in plastic bags or boiled in Cantonese restaurants to make potency soups for men. The fourth of China Dream’s seven episodes takes Ma Daode to a strip club, where VIPs have orgies in Mao’s private room with women who are identified only by numbers. The reason for this, he explains, is because “totalitarianism not only seeks to control the thought but also the body in which those thoughts are housed”.

“As a writer, when you are trying to describe your characters, there’s a visceral connection to their being. But in my exploration of the body I’m always trying to show that in these systems, when a regime is trying to hurt a person’s physical being, at the heart of it is an attempt to crush their soul. Sometimes, the body can survive but a lot of the time it becomes no more than a carcass.”

Red Dust, his semi-fictionalised 2001 account of his life-changing three-year journey, introduced another persistent theme, betrayal. It recounted how he was twice betrayed by an actor girlfriend, whom he, in turn, considered denouncing to the film studio that employed her, out of jealousy over her infidelity. None of his characters is without blame, but neither are they entirely evil. Even Ma Doade in China Dream attempts to warn protesters that they will be killed if they refuse to move out when bulldozers arrive to clear their homes for redevelopment.

Ma relates his story quietly and urgently through Drew, keeping his own record of the conversation in spidery Chinese script. The couple met in 1997 when she was working on a TV documentary about the handover of Hong Kong to China and he was one of the few local people who agreed to speak. He invited her to a poetry reading and gave her all his books to read; she stayed on to finish them, and by the time she left they were together. He moved briefly to Germany after the handover before joining her in London. She has translated everything he has written since. Does she worry that his repeated attacks on China may put him in danger? “This is the first time I’ve felt concerned, because there’s a brazenness to the behaviour now and they can do it without any backlash at all,” she says.

But the couple have kept faith with the best of the country, sending their 15-year-old son to study martial arts at a Shaolin monastery and to spend time with his Chinese family. Ma plans to travel to the Hong Kong literary festival this month, to present his novel in English. “I refuse to be afraid,” he says. “The disregard for truth is infectious. It also explains the rise of Trump. We need to protect concepts of humanity, and freedom can’t be taken for granted. We have to remain constantly vigilant. The more you buckle under these pressures, the huger the monster becomes. One’s responsibility as a writer is to be fearless.”



























轉引自自由副刊 2018/10/30

第十八屆香港國際文學節Hong Kong International Literary Festival 2-11 November 2018

Hong Kong International Literary Festival2-11 November 2018

Learn more about this year’s writers!

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position and The Wife, which was recently adapted in to a film starring Glenn Close. Meg will discuss her most recent novel, The Female Persuasion, and will join Irvine Welsh in a conversation about literature and film.
Paul French is the acclaimed author of the New York Times-bestselling Midnight in Peking, a re-creation of the unsolved murder of a young English woman in Beijing in 1937. Paul will present his latest book, City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir, a dramatic account of Shanghai’s lawless 1930s.
One of Hong Kong’s finest contemporary writers, Dung Kai-cheung (董啟章) has won numerous literary awards. Join Dung as he discusses history, memory and fiction in his newest translated book, The History of the Adventures of Vivi and Vera, set against a lovingly rendered backdrop of a developing Hong Kong in the twentieth century.
Jesse Oliver is the residing Australian Poetry Slam Champion, best known for his sincere and rhythmic style. He writes about his lived experiences and hopeful utopias, framed metaphorically within fantastical themes. Watch out for his performances in Tai Kwun and his slam poetry workshop.
Jenny Zhang is a writer, poet and essayist based in New York. Her short story collection, Sour Heart, won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Jenny is set to join singer Emmy the Great on stage to explore subjects including the complex internal worlds of young women, creating art, and the joys and heartache of returning to one’s “home” country.

Our full programme is up on our website here. Check out the reading list here.
Last year, 60% of HKILF events sold out, some within two days. Early bird tickets for Bookworm Festival donors are now available, a week from our general sale which starts on 14 September 2018.
If you don’t want to miss out on meeting any of our exciting writers, consider supporting the Festival!
Read about donor benefits or become a donor here.

Our thanks to the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macao for its support in presenting Meg Wolitzer and Jenny Zhang.
Please see our website for more details of our supporters.


Meg Wolitzer 是《紐約時報》暢銷書作家, 著作包括《The Interestings》、《The Uncoupling》、《The Ten-Year Nap》、《The Position》和最近被改編成美國藝人Glenn Close主演的電影的《The Wife》。Meg 將在文學節期間介紹最新作《The Female Persuasion》,以及與 Irvine Welsh 討論文學和電影。
Paul French 是著有《紐約時報》暢銷書《午夜北平》,講述1937年驚動北京的英籍少女謀殺案。Paul 將在活動介紹新作《惡魔之城》,重塑30年代的上海,展現其夜生活及罪惡橫行的一面。
董啟章 是香港當代的代表作家之一,獲取多個文學獎項。其小說《天工開物‧栩栩如真》今年推出英譯本,描繪香港於二十世紀的變遷。董啟章將在講座討論歷史、回憶和想像如何互相影響、互相構造。
Jesse Oliver 是現任澳洲「詩歌角力」大賽冠軍,以真摯又富節奏的風格著稱。其詩作以幻想主題為框架,用隱喻描繪個人經歷及表達對烏托邦的盼望。Jesse 將在大館舉行數場精彩的口述表演,亦將開辦「詩歌角力」寫作坊。
Jenny Zhang 是居紐約的作家、詩人和評論人。她的首部散文集《Sour Heart》獲PEN/Robert W. Bingham 小說獎。Jenny 將與音樂人 Emmy the Great (莫藹明) 討論年輕女性複雜的內心世界、創作過程和回「家」的喜悅和心酸。


特此鳴謝美國駐港澳總領事館贊助 Meg Wolitzer 和 Jenny Zhang 出席香港國際文學節。

Photo credit /攝影 Paul French: Sue Anne Tay







Nick Hagen for The New York Times  薛憶溈為其作品在加拿大受到的矚目心存感激,但卻擔憂他的聲音無法在中國被聽到。

蒙特婁——薛憶溈被譽為中國「最迷人的文體家」,然而他在英文讀者中幾乎不為人知。他的2010年書信體小說《白求恩的孩子們》是寫給1939年在中共抗日前線犧牲的加拿大醫生諾爾曼·白求恩(Norman Bethune)的信件。隨著該書英譯本前不久在加拿大出版,他在英語文學界的籍籍無名也將改變。





美國國家圖書獎(National Book Award)獲得者、《等待》(Waiting)的作者哈金表示,在中國現代文壇,薛憶溈被認為是一個「特立獨行的人」。「他獨立於文學圈外,完全是自己一個人。」現居波士頓的哈金還說:「中國的知名作家可能關注宏大的主題,但他們非常孤立,局限在體制裡,不能真正以不同的方式思考。」


「它的出版引起了強烈反響,」薛憶溈坐在自己高層公寓的陽台上回憶說。從那裡可以俯瞰蒙特婁的皇家山公園(Mount Royal Park)。「他們從沒找過我,但他們去找了我的朋友們。他們試圖查封發表我作品的那本雜誌。我始終不知道『他們』是誰。有個朋友對我說,我不應該再寫下去了。這是為了我自己好。那些話對我來說非常重要。」




薛憶溈在蒙特婁大學(Université de Montréal)上了一些文學課程。此後,他有了一個格外高產的時期,在那段時間裡,他在祖國的名氣越來越大,但在中國以外的地方,幾乎無人知曉。


加州大學洛杉磯分校(University of California, Los Angeles)的當代中國文化研究教授白睿文(Michael Berry)表示,「薛憶溈想要擺脫中國每天發生的各種變化的刺耳聲音,這是有道理的。在蒙特婁生活的局外人視角能讓他探索中國作家不敢觸碰的觀點。」

一開始,蒙特婁只是薛憶溈可以安全寫作的避風港,後來,這裡成了他的家,他對自己在第二故鄉獲得的公眾關注和獎項感到興奮。4月,他憑藉短篇小說集《深圳人》的英文譯本在蒙特婁的「藍色大都會節」(Blue Metropolis Festival)上獲得「多元化獎」(Diversity Prize)。那本短篇小說集以詹姆斯·喬伊斯(James Joyce)的《都柏林人》(Dubliners)為靈感。






Taras Grescoe是《大上海:中國古代的禁忌、陰謀與頹廢》(Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love, Intrigue and Decadence in Old China)的作者。




记者问:“为什么不允许刘晓波出国治疗肝癌?“高官:“那是因为没有先例。“记者又问:“那为什么不允许诺奖委员会到中国给刘晓波授奖?“高官又道:“那是因为有先例:苏联保外就医的奥西茨基是被纳粹允许诺奖委员会到他家中受奖。简言之: 无先例的事情我们无法做。有先例的事情当然就更不能做。”
网友问: “苏联的奥西茨基是第一个在监狱中获得诺贝尔和平奖的人。1935年获奖时他正在集中营饱受酷刑。纳粹禁止报道及禁止领奖。1936年5月奥西茨基患肺结核。同年11月纳粹允许他保外就医。并特许诺奖委员会在奥西茨基的家中举行授奖仪式。我们共产党是不是应该做得更好一些, 以示区别?”







一位学者对记者说,这本书不仅卷帙相当——四百五十页,选材全面、丰富,而且装帧考究、严肃,他相信,这本书对于希望了解和研究中国问题的德国学者及相关人士,在今后数年中都是一本绕不过去的参考文献。为此,记者进一步特别采访了这本书的编译者蒋永学先生(Thilo Diefenbach)。







 (特约记者:天溢 )






一九八七年,败退到台湾的国民党政权的蒋经国总统宣布,在七月十五日解除已经实施了三十八年五十六天的戒严法。三十年后,二〇一七年新年伊始,德国学者蒋永学(Thilo Diefenbach)在德国推出了纪念解严三十年,有关戒严和解严问题的德文本台湾文学选集。这本书以杨逵一九四九年的“和平宣言”开始,按照年代顺序收录了黄春明“两万年的历史”、李乔的“告密者”、李潼的“铜像店韩老爹”、王湘琦的“政治白痴”、李启源的“解严年代的爱情”、刘梓洁的“父后七日”等作品,最后以二〇一六年年胡晴舫的“世界”收尾,总共三十篇文字。





蒋永学先生说,这本书实际上得到了很多德国和台湾朋友的帮助。对此他说:“我想,我必须衷心感谢所有支持这本书的编译过程的人。首先我要感谢所有那些让我翻译他们作品的台湾作家,他们都对我非常友好,都和乐意并且同意了我的请求。国立台湾文学馆的人士也给我提供了很多帮助。还有四位德国汉学家,包惠夫(Wolf Baus)、毕鲁直(Lutz Bieg)、何致瀚(Hans Peter Hoffmann)、马嘉琳(Katharina Markgraf),他们提供了他们所翻译的和编辑的资料。最后我还要感谢很多台湾朋友们,他们给了我很多其它方面帮助和支持。其中特别要提到的是台湾书法家江柏萱,她为我书写了书的封面的书法。没有这么多人的帮助,我的计划无法实现。”



自己的花園 - 露伊絲.葛綠珂《野鳶尾》

自己的花園 - 露伊絲.葛綠珂《野鳶尾》


露伊絲.葛綠珂(Louise Glück)1943年生於美國紐約市,匈牙利猶太後裔,父親從商。她自幼即喜愛讀詩,十三歲開始寫詩投稿;高中畢業進入莎拉勞倫斯學院及哥倫比亞大學,但因嚴重精神性厭食症輟學就醫,沒有完成學業。其後多年她持續接受心理分析治療,聽從醫師建議把所思所感化成文字,並回哥大上夜間通識課,受教於前輩詩人黎歐妮.亞當斯(Leonie Adams,1899-1988)及史坦利.庫尼茲(Stanley Kunitz,1905-2006)。青春期的特殊經驗,深刻影響了她的創作。









詩人批評家安德魯.江斯頓(Andrew Johnston,1963-)曾說葛綠珂的詩「像幽靈,骨瘦嶙峋一襲黑衫,冷靜,清醒」。的確,詩如其人。早熟,憂鬱症,心理分析治療,失衡的親情,對孤寂的洞察,對內在黑暗的凝注,對存在與消亡的尋探……因為相似的生命履歷,葛綠珂的詩難免不讓人聯想到「告白詩派」的希薇亞.普拉斯(Sylvia Plath,1932-1963)與安.賽克絲頓(Anne Sexton,1928-1974);詩人學者史岱棻.柏特(Stephen Burt,1971-)甚至認為「普拉斯之外,葛綠珂是少數能把抑鬱和疏離感提升到美學領域的詩人」。但與早逝的兩位前輩相比,葛綠珂應該是更堅韌的。也因為跨過前輩沒跨越的關卡,葛綠珂走得更遠,視野更超脫,心思更透澈。《野鳶尾》裡迴響著的,是葛綠珂冷清的「心聲」,她思想的獨特音樂。她苦心經營的花園,她知道,最多只是一個變質的伊甸;而在無數晨禱晚禱後,她終究得到啟示,以詩安頓了自己。


葛綠珂的詩,例如早期的《艾奇里斯勝利》,稍後的《牧場》或《亞維諾火山口》等,靈感廣泛取材西方童話,史詩或神話;但《野鳶尾》中提到的花果植物則多出自《聖經》:番紅花,雅各之梯,蘋果,玫瑰,無花果,水仙,雛菊,莢蒾,百合與荊棘,葡萄園……甚至兩個人名,諾亞與約翰,都帶著象徵,架構出一個幾可亂真,同樣也要失去的,伊甸情境。除了這些,詩集中其他的花,比如野芝麻別名「死亡蕁麻」,延齡草別名「三葉花」(表示三位一體?),各自又蘊藏了表層之外的影射。至於野鳶尾:iris,除了是意涵「希望,信仰,勇氣與智慧」的花,它同時也是眼睛瞳孔外圈的虹膜,wild iris因此是不是可能隱喻「狂野的眼色」?林林總總,「她謎樣的語言,吸引讀者參與她的故事,融入,並各自填補其中的留白,」詩評家海倫.范德樂(Helen H. Vendler,1933-)說。葛綠珂的敘述雖不離「我」,但那「抒情我」其實並不陷溺於主觀,也因而柔軟了主╱客體二分的對立。這不斷自我詰辯的《野鳶尾》,彷彿一個洗滌儀典,她創作的分水嶺。









我的歌是文學嗎?」︰馬世芳譯Bob Dylan獲諾貝爾文學獎謝辭

「我的歌是文學嗎?」︰馬世芳譯Bob Dylan獲諾貝爾文學獎謝辭



 圖為2012年1月12日,Bob Dylan在美國洛杉磯表演。攝影:Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

 【編者按】2016年諾貝爾獎頒獎典禮於12月11日周六晚上的斯德哥爾摩音樂廳舉行,席間,Patti Smith在典禮上演唱本屆文學獎得主Bob Dylan的歌曲〈A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall〉,並以這首曲子代領獎項。Bob Dylan雖無出席領獎,但他親書一封公開信向各界致謝,並分享自己獲奬的看法和感言。下文為Bob Dylan的公開信內容翻譯,得譯者馬世芳先生授權轉載。



















編註︰更多馬世芳關於Bob Dylan的寫作,可參閱新近由新經典文化出版的《地下鄉愁藍調》十週年增訂版,及部落格