The New York Review of Books never fails to deliver. In this funny-if-it-weren’t-tragic instance, its man on the ground at the London Book Fair reports the reactions of Chinese publishing officials when they were politely asked about a number of writers, which were notably missing from official selection list. Here’s the first reaction that Jonathan Mirsky got:
I then asked another young woman, behind the desk of the main display of Chinese publications—on subjects ranging from technical matters to poetry—if Gao Xingjian’s books were on show. She hadn’t heard of him, but said she would ask “my boss.” When she asked him in Chinese if they had Gao’s books he said, in English, that Gao wasn’t a Chinese and that, like all foreigners, “he lied about China.” I asked him what sort of lies. He said in Chinese to his young assistant, “Don’t talk to this foreigner.” I told him in Chinese I could understand every word he had said, whereupon he told me, in English, “You’re a shit.” I replied, Bici, bici, which means, in effect, the feeling is mutual.
And here’s the second, less aggressive, but slightly more ridicolous one:
Finally, I went to the space where senior representatives of GAPP, the Chinese publishing bureau, were talking to the press. Madam Huang, who was representing GAPP, pressed a stuffed panda into the hands of each reporter as they were introduced. “This is a symbol of China,” she said, “friendly and open.” In Chinese I asked Madam Huang, who had already given me a panda, if either Gao Xingjian or Liu Xiaobo had been invited to appear at the Book Fair. She instantly snatched back my panda and hurried away.
I wonder if Mr Mirsky weeped quietly in a corner, alone, for loosing his stuffed panda. Because I certainly would have.