A Speech for Receiving ICPC 2010 Freedom to Write Award
By Ye Fu
It is difficult for me to imagine that for mankind there exists such an award for writing in the name of “freedom”, those to whom she was awarded are just those Chinese writers who are silently exercising their natural right to “freedom of creation”.
There is hardly a nation of people with its scripts who, after being depicted for 3300 years, still cannot reach the origin of their free writing, but have to encourage their users in this way of awarding them for practicing their nature born of language.
Therefore, at the moment when this award was named, Chinese language became awkward against other languages of mankind. While I fortunately stand in this relatively lonely lineup of the awardees, I feel as a fish on a chopping board, my inner scales peeling off layer by layer – in front of the world, exposing the nudity of our dastard, weak and desperate struggle.
Behind the so-called 3000 years of civilization, our writing in our native language has rarely realized her true freedom. Whether it is at a spiritual level or in terms of secular rights, freedom and our nation are just like fire and ice, which, once encountered, would result in intense pain suffering like being fried or boiled. For six decades, this sacred word that has been included in various constitutions of mankind, has almost always been made equally infamous to Sin in the Chinese dictionary in mainland China. The innocent souls from numerous literary inquisitions have been filled with blood, and new prisoners are endlessly convicted for their words. Freedom has been seen as a dangerous road, and looked forward to until blind. The torch of freedom in the thin air of the Far East is dying as a firefly light, and has failed to illuminate the fraught hearts and the forward way of this suffering nation.
I have seen in this land, the many attempting to write for freedom, mostly deported to exile, or throat-cut and tongue-pulled. Irrigating China with blood has always been difficult to promote sturdy grass of freedom, and filling streets with corpses has just added a foul smell to the tyranny of terror. Many literate people had to turn to writing as a kind of calculation, in this age of cynical snobbery built by the tyranny, weighing every word for their fame and fortune on earth.
For many years, we have been used to growing up in such a hypocritical, cowardly and even despicable context, with excessive words and cute techniques taught from childhood to flatter the murderers. Speaking with honesty and sincerity, the qualities that common people should have, has surprisingly turned into a kind of rare virtue in this great country.
We are fawning to the system, kneeing down to the evil, and getting along with the turbid, decadent world. Like a dwarf with anemia and weak bones, we are able to seamlessly make peaceful adultery with this shameful villain era of politics.
We are lack of the writers who use wrath to warn the tyrant, but rich in producing the eunuchs tearfully advising the plebeians. Many prolific celebrities speak no human words, turning a blind eye to the ever-present censoring/blocking as well as miscarriage of justice, but facing the world shamelessly to claim that this is a state with freedom of creation.
I often think that those ancestors who created the Chinese characters and literature, those forefathers who advocated a great tradition of literature speaking ideals, conveying morals, satirizing wrongs and condemning crimes, with their noble souls through the history, were overlooking the literature of our time, how they would spit blood in the heavens. A dark and most absurd century has been difficult to record and confirm in our books of history, which will make each of us, the witnesses, shamed for our aphasia to face our past and next lives.
For many years, I was carrying such shame while walking in my motherland, angrily seeing the injustice over mountains and rivers, and wearing out long ancient knife. The earth’s groaning entered my ears to stab my heart; after throwing my pen away, I felt eyes dried and air cold. What a world of Dharma-Ending! Perpetrators arbitrarily have abused the power while civilians been fooled and trampled. On the wrecked graves everywhere, pains have been erased while the steles crushed and weathered in the evening. For several entire generations of bloody sufferings, no sound of the vesper’s bell has yet been heard.
To truly speak out the era we have seen and experienced, is it really so difficult and dangerous?
So-called free writing is not so sophisticated a skill, even less dangerous and difficult to than imagined. She only needs us to reverently prostrate in the dust of time, to retrieve the integrity we have lost. Integrity in our hearts will be able to discern good from bad, and beauty from ugliness, to recognize decency and evil, and right and wrong, which is just a writer’s basic quality. Only in this way, we can truly reach the freedom of the mind, to make writing a valuable righteous deed without shame.
Hence, I began picking up a pen in the middle of the night, and, after drinking, telling my stories about the origins of this era to the citizens who were awake with a conscience. Maybe they knew about them and were tired of listening, but those were what they had heard. Only mine are still painful after being drunk. As snow falls on earth, what I have written is not the poetry but the biting chill, the curses on an evil world.
I have never been an advocate for forgetting personal scores. Recording all of these is to accomplish my own salvation and also to prosecute in the history those unscrupulous evils. Without a written prosecution, it is not only impossible to achieve social justice, but it also continuously grants luck to the generations of corruptors and slaughterers. If goodness is not praised, and if evil deeds do not fear the shame to be revealed, the evilness will be repeated for generations, for nobody will ever feel scared. If all crimes must be taken for granted, then this nation will never have taboos.
Thank you to the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and thank you to the jury for granting me this award, which is very noble to let me be fortunate enough to stand together with the previously awarded righteous people. Freedom, in our hearts, is a perpetual lamp, which does not only light the life of humble darkness, but is also a default birthmark in which we will always find our colleagues.
I know that the Freedom to Write Award is a crown of thorns, a pain biting into bones and heart, yet a great crowning achievement in my life. I am willing to be guided under the shining light of this honor to return to the real frontline of words, maintaining the courage and persistence, like a flint fire, for the fuel to be passed to all the brothers who are making tireless efforts among the people.
Therefore, pay tribute to the Independent Chinese PEN Center! To all of those who are decently writing with a dream of freedom!
December 20, 2010