Chinese Author Liao Yiwu to Receive German Peace Prize
The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association has chosen Chinese author Liao Yiwu to be the recipient of this year's Peace Prize.
Enlarge image A copy of Liao Yiwu's "Für ein Lied und hundert Lieder" (For a Song and a Hundred Songs) at a literary festival in Erlangen, Germany (2011). (© picture-alliance/dpa)
The award ceremony will take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 14, 2012, in the city's historic St. Paul's Church (Paulskirche) and be broadcast live on the German public TV channel ARD.
In a statement the association hailed Yiwu as "a Chinese author who continues to wage an eloquent and fearless battle against political repression and who lends a clear and unmistakable voice to the downtrodden and disenfranchised of his country.
"In his prose and poetry, Liao Yiwu erects an evocative literary monument to those people living on the margins of Chinese society. The author, who has experienced first-hand the effects of prison, torture and repression, is an unwavering chronicler and observer who bears witness on behalf of the outcasts of modern China.
"The manuscript of his work 'For a Song and a Hundred Songs,' in which he tells of the brute force and dehumanizing conditions in Chinese prisons, was confiscated repeatedly by authorities. In response, he rewrote it several times and was eventually able to publish it in exile. As a Volksschriftsteller ('people's author') in the most comprehensive sense of the term, Liao Yiwu is an unrelenting advocate of human dignity, freedom and democracy."
Liao Yiwu, who is also a journalist and a musician, was born on August 4, 1958 in Chengdu, the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan. With little formal schooling, he eventually landed after a series of menial jobs at a newspaper. Although he received several national poetry awards, by 1987 he was placed on an official "black list" and was banned from writing several times.
In February 1990, Yiwu was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for "disseminating counterrevolutionary propaganda." After his release he earned a living as a street musician with his sole possession - a flute he had learned to play in prison.
Yiwu eventually escaped to Germany from China via Vietnam in 2011. He received a one-year scholarship in 2012 as part of the DAAD's (German Academic Exchange Service) Berlin artists program. At the end of the year, his latest work is due to be published in German under the title "Die Kugel und das Opium - Leben und Tod am Platz des Himmlischen Friedens" (The Ball and the Opium - Life and Death on the Square of Heavenly Peace).
Two of Yiwu's books - "The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up" and "God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China" - have been published in English. "For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison" is due to be published in English in early 2013.
The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of 25,000 euros. Past winners include German author Hermann Hesse, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, and Turkish writer and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.