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Word Crime: is the Culture Revolution really over?
Our language has been cut into two parts; one safe, and the other risky. Some words are revolutionary, and others are reactionary; some words we may use, and others belong to our enemies.|
The most unfortunate thing is that despite my experience, I still don't always know which words are legal and which is illegal, and as a result I often unknowingly commit a "Word crime". When I stand at a podium to receive a prize, I feel uncomfortable calling myself a writer - I am merely a word crimial.
Some people would say that this is just the way things are. My feeling is that I am already close to suffocation. I struggle to choose safe words in a linguistic minefield. It seems that every single Chinese word looks suspicious. I want to say that this not only harms my works, it also harms our language.
This is our great language, the language of Philosopher Zhuangzi and the poets Li Bai and Su Dongpo and the grand historian Sima Qian. Maybe our grandchildren and the children of our grandchildren will rediscover many beautiful words and phrases that no longer exist. But sadly, even now, we continue to arrogantly procalim that our langauge is on the rise.
The only speakable truth is that we cannot speak the truth. The only acceptable viewpoint is that we cannot express a viewpoint. We cannot criticize the system, we cannot discuss current affaris, we cannot even mention distant Ethiopia. Sometimes I can't help wondering: Is the Culture Revolution really over?
I know these words are not appropriate for this time and place, as I accpet an award. They may be deemed naive. But at this time, in this place, I still adhere to a kind of navie reasoning: when the air quality deteriorates, I feel we should do something; not simply shut our mouths and stop breathing. Rather, we must act, to defend our language, to improve the environment. Most of all, this is what a writer should do. Only by saying this kind of thing do I deserve a prize for literature.
By Murong Xuecun, who got the 2010 People's Literature Prize (one of famous literature pizes in Mainland China), but he was unexpectedly barred from making an acceptance speech. He dilivered it instead on Tuesday before the Forign Correspondents Club in HongKong
published: Februrary 23, 2011