On 19 May 2022, two outstanding voices of the Chinese-language exile community, Yan Geling and Yang Lian, visited Goethe University Frankfurt as part of the event "The Moral Duties of Art - Chinese Literary Exile in Germany" hosted by the IZO.
Moderated by Prof. Dr. Yang Zhiyi, the Berlin-based novelist and screenwriter Yan Geling discussed with the poet Yang Lian, who has already been living in self-imposed exile since 1989. In front of a large audience of over 170 interested guests, including many members of the Chinese diaspora in Germany, both artists explained their break with the Chinese regime and talked about traumatic experiences in their own past and their influence on their respective artistic work.
While Yan was a respected and widely read author in China for many years, her criticism of the Chinese regime led to a de facto ban on her new book after the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. During the event in Frankfurt, Yan described her doubts before publishing the critical article, combined with the fear that her life would change drastically and she would become persona non grata in China. Nevertheless, she ultimately decided to publish the article, which in the end led to a de facto erasure of her person on the Chinese internet.
Following these accounts, both personal and political, Yan and her husband Lawrence Walker read excerpts from Yan Geling's work in the original Chinese and translation. Yang Lian entertained the audience with several of his poems, including one about his adopted home of Berlin and a very topical poem about his current residence in Frankfurt, which questions Theodor Adorno's attitude to poetry after Auschwitz. Afterwards, the audience had the opportunity to ask the artists questions in German, Chinese and English. The audience was interested in both the artistic activities of the panellists and their assessments of the political and social climate in China.
The complete recording of the event on 19 May 2022 can be found here on Youtube
Deutsche Welle also reported in detail (in Chinese) about the event. You can find the link here
Image Credits: Peng Guo