To celebrate yesterday’s release of Liu Xia from detention, here’s a video of her reading two poems while in captivity, “Untitled” (translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern) and “Drinking” (translated by Yu Zhang). A 2015 post on the PEN America website has the text of both translations, as well as the back-story:
October 8, 2015, will mark five years that Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Chinese writer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under extralegal house arrest in her Beijing apartment. It was on this date in 2010 that Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland announced from Oslo that her husband was to receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and nonviolent struggle for human rights in China.” Within hours, police descended on her apartment complex, cut her phone lines, and barred friends and family from entry.
In this rare video, shot in December 2013 after friends ripped past the guards to her apartment, Liu Xia is seen reading two of her own poems in her apartment. Liu casually sits at her desk just outside the soft glow of a reading lamp, smoking a cigarette and reading from her notebook. After she finishes reading the second poem, “Drinking,” she gives a hasty thumbs up to the unidentified camera operator heard whistling in approval.
On December 1, 2015, PEN will host a reading of Liu Xia’s poems from a new translation of her poetry, Empty Chairs—forthcoming on November 3 from Graywolf Press—at Book Court in New York City. Stay tuned for details to come.