For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison

Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2013. 416p. tr. from Chinese by Wenguang Huang. ISBN 9780547892634. $26. LIT
Following Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, award-winning Chinese poet Liao (The Corpse Walker; God Is Red) wrote the poem "Massacre," which expressed his anger and frustration toward political oppression. He then gathered his friends to create and distribute the film Requiem, a tribute to those who died in the uprising. Branded a counterrevolutionary, Liao was quickly arrested and imprisoned for four years in a series of Chongqing prisons. This memoir tells the story of his incarceration, the hierarchy among prisoners, and the torture from the guards. As an "89er," Liao fared better than the less-educated prisoners; nonetheless, he paid a heavy price for speaking out against the government. Reminiscent of Jung Chang's Wild Swans in its outspokenness, this book offers a frightening reminder of China's human rights abuses.
VERDICT Liao has succeeded in writing a sensitive and lyrical account focusing on both the cruelty and the heartwarming experiences of his prison years. Recommended for readers wishing to know more about prominent figures of China's historic 1989 uprising.

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