The Corpse Walker
Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up
By Liao Yiwu
Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780375425424, 336pp.
Publication Date: April 15, 2008
List Price: $25.00*
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The Corpse Walker is a compilation of twenty-seven extraordinary oral histories that opens a window, unlike any other, onto the lives of ordinary, often outcast, Chinese men and women. Liao Yiwu (one of the best-known writers in China because he is also one of the most censored) chose his subjects from the bottom of Chinese society: people for whom the “new” China--the China of economic growth and globalization-—is no more beneficial than the old. By asking challenging questions with respect and empathy, he manages to get his subjects to talk openly about their lives.
Here are a professional mourner, a trafficker in humans, a leper, an abbot, a retired government official, a former landowner, a mortician, a feng shui master, a former Red Guard, a political prisoner, a village teacher, a blind street musician, a Falun Gong practitioner, and many others–people who have been battered by life but who have managed to retain their dignity, their humor, and their essential, complex humanity.
Liao crafted the interviews (conducted between 1990 and 2003) with sensitivity and patience, working both from notes and from his own memory of these remarkable conversations. The result is an idiosyncratic, powerful, and richly revealing portrait of a people, a time, and a place we might otherwise have never known.
“Revealing. . . . full of forbearance and forgiveness. . . . Each re-created interview…captures a particular individual at a crucial time in Chinese history.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Stunning. . . . Revealing in its incidental details. . . . Liao brings us fascinating insights into the lives of all manner of workers....an addictive book.”
“Reading The Corpse Walker is like walking with Liao: Even though our feet are not blistered and our bodies are not starved, in the end we are shaken and moved.”
—San Francisco Chronicle