Why do you write?

I kept in touch with many former inmates, especially the former political prisoners and their relatives after we had been redressed in the early 80s. But we seldom talked about the camp life we had gone through when we met, because the new life seemed to have started and there was no time for remembering our nightmarish past. Then there loomed on the shelves of the bookstores the prison literature, novels and stories, written by former political inmates like us. These books became very popular as soon as they appeared. The Cultural Revolution had just ended and the majority of the Chinese were anxious to know what had happened to millions of innocent people who had been kept in prison labor camps during the previous decade. We, too, as survivors of the brutal system, were eager to read them, only to feel angry and disappointed, because we found there was nothing in common between what they described and what we had experienced.

 

Since then more than three decades have passed already. Will people think that your book is out-of-date?

I don’t think so. The regime is as repressive as ever. There are thousands of innocent people who get arrested each year for political reasons or for their religious beliefs. They are brainwashed, tortured, executed, and their organs are harvested.

 

Why did you write your memoir in the form of short stories?

I concentrated on the events and characters when I started to write the book. I was afraid that the book would be boring if I paid too much attention to the daily life in the prison barracks which was monotonous and repetitive.

 

What do you think the future holds for the Chinese regime?

Had it not spent more than its military budget last year in order to achieve social stability, the regime would have collapsed already. Unlike Mao’s era when the country was virtually a huge prison camp, the current regime can hardly keep the people away from the outside world no matter how hard it tries to do so. The harder the regime becomes to those people who no longer listen to its propaganda, the more political dissidents it will generate. That means, in turn, the more it will spend to achieve social stability.

There’re good opportunities, such as the Olympic Games and Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize, for the regime to respond positively to the inquiries of the international communities, but the communist regime, arrogant and stupid to an incomprehensible degree, disappointed the world.

What has the honoring of Liu Xiaobo with the Nobel Prize – and now with a couple of his books scheduled for publication in the U.S. – meant for raising international awareness on current oppression in China?

As it did with many other dissidents, the totalitarian regime ruled that Liu Xiaobo was a subversive, and claimed that its ruling was in accordance to the law. It seemed that simple, and the world should shut up.

The publication of Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s books will enable American readers to understand what “subversion” really means and why Mr. Liu was sentenced to an eleven-year-prison term.

For propaganda’s sake, the Chinese communist regime has exported hundreds of Confucian Academy to the West. By doing so, I think, it takes for granted that it can fool the world as it has done with its own people, not expecting that the Nobel Prize Committee would pick Mr. Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize of 2010. In this sense, Mr. Liu’s Noble Peace Prize, while inspiring and encouraging millions of the people who are struggling in the brutal reign of the repressive government, serves as an overwhelmingly hard blow on the totalitarian regime.

Why did you translate your stories into English?

I realized that it was impossible for the book to be published in China.

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XIAODA XIAO came to Amherst, MA -- where he still lives with his wife -- in the spring of 1989, shortly before the break-out of the democratic movement in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He has published stories based on his prison experience during the last years of Mao's regime in China in various magazines in the U.S., among them, The Atlantic Monthly. His first novel, The Cave Man, was published to acclaim in 2009. Xiao is also an accomplished violinist, painter, and inventor.

5 responses to “Xiaoda Xiao: The TNB 
Self-Interview”

  1. I just read the excerpt and there is nothing even remotely out-of-date about it. It is clearly about people, relationships, how people endure suffering and what becomes of them emotionally, physically, and intellectually under such inhumane circumstances. Material that rich and moving doesn’t change over time.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    I wish I had been able to partake in the online chat – but the NZ time distance mucked up my plans…
    Just wanted to say what a fabulous read “The Visiting Suit’ is.
    I have read many books set in China and this is one of the very best. Well done. Thank you so much for sharing your words with us.

  3. xiaoda xiao says:

    Your words are my best reward.

  4. Judi Lyman says:

    I realize this thread has not be active for sometime. Hoping my words will reach Xaioda Xiao. I worked with you in the 90s at Services for Community Living. I recently came across a painting for did for one of our clients. Please contact me, you brought such Joy to the gentleman we supported!

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