The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up
Liao Yiwu, , foreword by Philip Gourevitch. . Pantheon, $25 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42542-4
In this rich, often harrowing oral history, Chinese writer (and notorious target of censors) Liao travels to the margins of Chinese society, interviewing 27 outsiders from China's forgotten classes. The book contains an incredible cast of characters: a grave robber, a composer, a leper, a professional mourner paid to wail at funerals, a human trafficker and a delusional peasant who has anointed himself emperor. These conversations, largely recorded from memory, showcase Liao's empathy for his subjects and a particular talent for getting into tight situations; on one occasion, the author is forced to leap out of a three-story building when he fears the Communist government is targeting him for talking to a Falun Gong supporter. Liao's research took 11 years, and his final product is a stunning series of portraits of a generation and class of individuals ignored in history books and unacknowledged in the accounts of the “new” China.
Reviewed on: 02/18/2008