“I am happy that the British Council is co-operating, is setting up some kind of a dialogue with China, this is a start.
But what makes me disappointed is that within this dialogue you will not hear any mention of the taboo areas of Chinese history, Tiananmen Square, you will not see any book that has not been censored by the Chinese authorities”
Ma Jian, 19th April (with his translator and partner Fiona Drew)
The London Book Fair’s “Market Focus” this year is China, which reflects the country’s current role in the Western imagination as an enormous market riding to all our rescue. Predictably, the authors selected to speak were chosen by the General Administration of Press and Publishing, the branch of the Chinese government responsible for regulation and control of the media.
As suggested by the above transcript, the British Council also hand a hand in this arrangement which has led to the exclusion of various censored writers, being responsible for liaising with the CCP. Not present at the fair itself are a number of writers I’ve written about, such as Chan Koonchung, Yu Hua, and Ma Jian himself. However, Mo Yan is there, and in a recent Granta interview went as far as to suggest that censorship is “great for literature creation”.
The British Council’s pathetic explanation was that it was important to choose approved writers because “they live in China and write their books there,” as opposed to “other writers who have left.” There is a depth of wilful immorality in that statement that makes it satisfying to quote but rather horrible to think about too deeply.