Probing the dark side of humanity.
Chen Xiwo is the author of the novella collection The Book of Sins, which is banned in China. Winner of an English PEN Award, Nicky Harman’s eagerly-awaited translation of this controversial book will be published by Fortysix in the UK in October 2014.
Due to Chen’s refusal to compromise about his often controversial writing, it was nearly 20 years before his books could be published in China. He now teaches comparative literature at Fuzhou Normal University and has published seven major novels.
After graduating from Fujian Normal University, Chen studied in Japan from 1989 to 1994. One recurring terrain in Chen’s fiction is sexual and political corruption, and perhaps his most famous novella I Love My Mum, (遮蔽,) uses incest as a metaphor for a dysfunctional society. The novella is still not available in China, but Make-Do published an English translation in 2010.
Despite his early difficulties being published in his homeland, Chen’s writing has now received widespread recognition there. One of his major novels, “Exile”, won the eighth HuangChangXian Literature Prize. Other books, including “Irritation”, which has also been translated into French, helped gain Chen the fourth Fujian Flowers award for outstanding literary works.
Chen’x most recent book, a story collection called I’m Hurt, was published to great acclaim in 2014.
Chen Xiwo has been described by Asia Sentinel as ‘one of China’s most outspoken voices on freedom of expression for writers.’ In 2007, Chen famously sued the Chinese government after they banned The Book of Sins.
In June 2007, the Fuzhou office of China Customs intercepted the galley proof of The Book of Sins, which had been mailed to him by his Taiwanese publisher. The collection of Chen’s works was quickly deemed ‘prohibited’ because in contained the banned novella I Love My Mum.
Chen launched a legal case against the Chinese government and an uproar exploded in the Chinese media at the absurdity of a writer having his own book confiscated. The scandal surrounding Chen Xiwo’s case in many ways epitomizes a writing career characterized by a refusal to compromise.
In 2012, Chen made his first ever visit to the UK for a one-day English PEN conference on China. The PEN event in London was a full day of talks and performances that also involved Ma Jian, Ou Ning, Jianhong Li and Xinran.
Chen Xiwo at English Pen Event
“A picture of the dark side of humanity.” Hong Kong Phoenix Weekly
This is the first English translation of one of Chen Xiwo’s most famous works. I Love My Mum caused an international sensation in 2007 when the author sued the Chinese customs after they confiscated the Chinese version.
I Love My Mum is a shocking tale of murder and incest narrated by a hardened crime squad detective who is used to the seamy side of life. Even he has never come across a murder case like this. And the same is guaranteed for the reader.
In addition to a full and uncensored translation of I Love My Mum the book also includes a specially written afterword by Chen Xiwo, and an introduction to his life and work.
The Battle for free Speech in China – Interview by Spectator UK
I haven’t been much drawn to erotica or political allegory, but Chen Xiwo’s I Love my Mum changed that. Relaxed, in an open necked shirt and jeans, at a recent English PEN event in Bloomsbury, Xiwo looked the antithesis of a persecuted writer. He appeared with a range of other speakers, from exiled writers to documentary filmmakers, to discuss contemporary literature in China.
Many writers at the event are trying to provoke, trying to inspire change. Xiwo, for instance, penned a novel gilded in matricide and incest to comment on the Chinese state, aptly titled, I Love my Mum. It was banned in 2007; the reason why was ‘classified information.’ With a slight grin and an energetic, even mischievous manner, Xiwo recounted his lawsuit against the censorship authorities which culminated in a secret court hearing where he was told I Love My Mum would remain banned because it ‘was not helpful to humanity… it was obscene and erotic and… it would influence people to do bad things’.
Chen’s Speech on Censorship in China, Delivered at Hong Kong’s FCC in 2010
Read an English translation by Martin Merz and Jane Weizhen Pan of Chen Xiwo’s 2010 speech on censorship, delivered at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Singapore Newpaper Interview (Chinese)
Interview By book.163.com (Chinese)
Chen Xiwo’s Chinese Blog: http://blog.sina.com.cn/chenxiwo