Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Muse: John Siddique Reads Liu Xiaobo

. . . To strangle freedom of speech
is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity,
and suppress truth.
~ Liu Xiaobo

. . . I believe that while any writer is not free to write
or be read, then no writer is free.
~ John Siddique

Liu Xiaobo's Empty Chair
Photo Credit: Sarah Hoffman

Poet John Siddique, whose work I have reviewed here, here, and here, speaks frequently, publicly, and eloquently on behalf of writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry whenever their voices, when raised in opposition to repression, hatred, and discrimination, are silenced. Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo (b. 1955) of China, who was honored in 2010 for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights" in his country, is one of a number of such writers who have been imprisoned for "inciting subversion of state power"; he is serving a sentence of 11 years (he was arrested and has been detained since December 8, 2008). His wife Liu Xia remains under house arrest, though she has not been charged with any crime.

As John says, when a writer "is not free to read" his work, "so it falls to the other poets of this world to be a voice" for the voice that's silenced. It benefits all of us to stand in solidarity.

In honor of the laureate, John recently recorded a poem, "Your Lifelong Prisoner", that Liu Xiaobo wrote for his wife, who, he has written, "wait[s] in the intangible prison of the heart." John is a wonderful reader, and in this case he uses his voice beautifully on his contemporary's behalf. I hope you find John's reading of the poem as moving as I do. 

Liu Xiaobo's No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems will be published in January by Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. The publisher's announcement is here. A New York Times article, "In New Book From Dissident, a Warning on China", is here.

Poems by Liu Xiaobo: "One Letter Is Enough", "Longing to Escape", "A Small Rat in Prison", and "Daybreak" (Translated by Jeffrey Yang)

Also of Interest

Nobel Peace Prize 2010

Liu Xiaobo, "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement", Statement of December 23, 2009; Nobel Lecture in Absentia, December 10, 2010, Read by Liv Ullmann

"I Have No Enemies" Video

Liu Xiaobo's life and work are the subject of a Nobel Prize documentary, A Portrait of Liu Xiaobo, a nine-minute excerpt of which is here. For the longer (30-minute) version, go here.

"China: Liu Xiaobo", Profile, PEN American Center (You'll find a range of PEN press releases concerning the Nobel award and Liu Xiaobo's imprisonment. Also see the blog post below.)

Charter 08 for Reform and Democracy in China

Michael Bristow, "One Year On: Nobel Winner Liu Xiaobo Still in Jail", BBC News, October 6, 2011

Sarah Hoffman, "Liu Xiaobo's Nobel: One Year Later", PEN American Center, December 8, 2011


L.L. Barkat said...

An empty chair is such a powerful image (and not just an image either, but a presence).

Anonymous said...

john carries the words and places them so delicately in our lap.

S. Etole said...

What a moving poem.

Alida Sharp said...

Thank you for sharing this...very moving.