Events in NYC Introduce Contemporary Chinese Literature, Raise Awareness of Censorship of Foreign Writers in China


This year, BookExpo America, the leading book and author event for the North American publishing industry, honors as its Global Market Forum Guest of Honor. In addition to hosting Chinese publishers and encouraging industry exchange, it is showcasing Chinese writers in numerous events around the city that include author talks, discussions, and films. Check the BookExpo off-site event listing and our most recent Events and Exhibitions post for listings of this rare opportunity to learn more about contemporary Chinese literature. All events are on our calendar.

As this form of cultural exchange expands, PEN American Center, an organization dedicated to advancing literature and defending free expression and which last year hosted Chinese-British writer Guo Xiaolu in New York, brings awareness to the issue of censorship of writers in China — not of domestic writers, but foreign writers whose works are published in China. In their report Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship, PEN examines how the Chinese government censors international books — often unbeknownst to publishers, agents, and the authors themselves, how writers self-censor or agree to censorship, and options for writers looking to publish in China. As well as books, it is well known that information on the internet is subject to censorship, however, this can be resolved with the use of something like a Pirate Bay proxy, whereas books can be harder to source.

From the PEN website:

The report is part of a PEN campaign to tackle censorship and other free expression violations in China-where the Committee to Protect Journalists documents at least 44 writers are currently in prison. Under the slogan “Governments Make Bad Editors,” the campaign will also include a Shadow Expo during BookExpo America 2015 to counter the aggressive propaganda presented by the state-sponsored delegation in its China-focused events.”

Yesterday, May 26, they hosted a panel discussion, “Censored in China: Dissident Writers Speak Out“. Tonight at 6 PM at the New York Public Library at 42nd and 5th, they will hold the Rally for Silenced Chinese Writers with Murong Xuecun, Xiaolu Guo, Bao Pu, A.M. Homes, Francine Prose, Paul Auster, Jonathan Franzen, Ha Jin – to spotlight some of China’s silenced writers and demand the release of the all those jailed in China for their words.

For the government, writers, and publishers, all of whom have their own interests, what, if any, is the appropriate balance between censorship, free expression, and access to unmodified works? Today, the New York Times‘ series Room for Debate presents varying views from Rebecca E. Karl, associate professor of history and East Asian studies at NYU; Elliot H. Sperling, an associate professor in, and the former chairman of, the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University who writes frequently on Tibetan history and Sino-Tibetan relations; Chan Koonchung, a Beijing-based writer who lives in Beijing; and publisher John Oakes.

More from PEN:

“If Xi Jinping Threw a Book Party” – Interview with China scholar Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching at the University of California-Riverside and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University

“The PEN Ten with A Yi” – An interview with writer A Yi (??).

“What U.S. publishers owe China”Washington Post Op-ed by executive director of the PEN American Center

Photo: Edwin Lee, Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons.