Distributed March 29, 1990
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Three dissident Chinese writers to read from their works

Three dissident Chinese writers – Ma Bo, Bei Ling and Xue Di – who are now in residence at Brown University will read from their works on April 11, 1990, and share their life experiences in a forum on April 12.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. —Dissident Chinese writers Ma Bo, Bei Ling and Xue Di will read from their works on April 11 and share their life experiences in a forum on April 12. The forum will examine the role of underground literature in the Chinese Democracy Movement. The writers will also discuss what they are going to do now that they are in exile. Both events are at 8 p.m. in the Leung Gallery, second floor of Faunce House on the Brown University campus. The three writers arrived in December at Brown, where they are writing fellows in the Graduate Writing Program, a subgroup of the English Department, for the spring semester. Both events are free and open to the public.

The two events are sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature, the East Asian Studies Department, the English Department, the Admissions Office and the Third World Center. Translation will be provided.

Novelist Ma Bo, an outspoken critic of Chinese leadership, escaped from China after the military crackdown last June. Earlier in his career the Chinese government had labeled him a pariah for eight years until he was eventually rehabilitated. Ma Bo’s semi-autobiographical novel, Bloody Sunset, was a best-seller in China, selling more than half a million copies before it was banned. Published under the author’s pseudonym, Lao Gui (Old Ghost), the novel chronicles the experiences of a disillusioned revolutionary youth on a farm in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. As a writing fellow at Brown, he will receive a stipend allowing him to continue writing his next novel, Bloody Sunrise, which deals with his experiences at Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese poet Huang Bei Ling (pen name Bei Ling) participated as a student in the 1978-80 pro-democracy movement in China. He was prohibited from working for two years after graduating from college, then became an editor and went on to teach economics. In October 1988 he came to the United States to give lectures on literature at Harvard. Because of his political views, he is now unable to return to China. Bei Ling is one of two founders of the international group, Chinese Writers in Exile. As a writing fellow at Brown, Bei Ling is working on a history of China’s literary underground, which was flourishing until last June as an aesthetic and political alternative to official state literature. Bei Ling is writing the history to recognize the lives of authors who are currently imprisoned in China for their opinions. His own poetry, published through the underground network, is influenced by 20th-century French writers, the beat poets and Sylvia Plath.

Poet Xue Di, active in the avant-garde Chinese Writers Association, began writing poetry as a career in 1984 and has been prolific ever since. He has published more than a dozen major collections, including Huo Yan (Flames), a cycle of poems dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh. He is considered a rising star among young Chinese writers today. During the 1989 Democracy Movement, he began to organize resident writers and poets into support groups for the Tiananmen students’ hunger strike. He did this by personally calling on other members of the writers association to request their presence in the demonstrations. The writers association and an ad hoc group calling itself the “Beijing Poets” marched in support daily between May 17 and 19, immediately before martial law was declared. From letters he has written to colleagues in the United States, it appears he is in danger of political retribution. He has been informed that several of his forthcoming books will now not be published.

The program to invite the writers to campus was announced last September by Brown President Vartan Gregorian, at a rally of Chinese students. In a statement condemning the Tiananmen Square massacre, Gregorian said, “...in celebration of that spirit of free expression that so characterized the Democracy Movement, we have arranged to bring at least three Chinese dissident writers to Brown University for the spring semester, and hope to arrange at least brief visits of several other writers and scholars.”