A “memorable series of portraits of the working class people who defended Tiananmen Square” (The New York Review of Books) during the protests from the award-winning poet, dissident, and “one of the most original and remarkable Chinese writers of our time” (Philip Gourevitch).
Much has been written about the Tiananmen Square protests, but very little exists in the words of those who were actually there.
For over seven years, Liao Yiwu—a master of contemporary Chinese literature, imprisoned and persecuted as a counter-revolutionary until he fled the country in 2011—secretly interviewed survivors of the devastating 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Tortured, imprisoned, and forced into silence and the margins of Chinese society for thirty years, their harrowing and unforgettable stories are now finally revealed in this “indispensable historical document” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
Describing himself as a "remembrance worker," former political prisoner and poet Liao compiled this album of harrowing interviews of fellow protesters to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. On June 4, 1989, Communist Chinese troops murdered and injured thousands of demonstrators to quash the budding pro democracy movement. Upon reciting his poem about Tiananmen Square in 1990, the author was imprisoned and tortured for four years. Following his release, he eked out a living until 2011, when he escaped and settled in Germany. Part I includes nine profiles of "working-class people and peasants" present at the square in Beijing on June 4, who recall the exhilaration of the demonstrations ("it felt like we were celebrating a holiday") and then the carnage, with "pools of blood everywhere." Some recount prison experiences similar to Liao's. Part II, titled "Sichuan," for Liao's native province, includes a sardonic self-description as the only "writer in China who writes exclusively for the police" because of the surveillance he has been under. The dark tone reflects the author's struggle to come to terms with his history of displacement and witness by honoring those who perished. Liao succeeds in sharing the mental and physical damage protesters of his generation endured.