Extract by Don Delillo on Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo
What happens to the writer caught in the tide of round-the-clock surveillance, enforced isolation, detention without trial?
Think of a man alone in a room. This is the writer's classic condition, cruelly extended when the state locks the door to the room. Think of the writer in opposition, the man who writes against power, who writes against the coiled mechanism of the state and the entire apparatus of total assimilation.
It's the nature of language to pitch itself against the smothering oneness of the state. Words want to be free. Lui Xiaobo's crime is called "an incitement to subvert state power." This is an administrative term for the exercise of free speech - the very activity, Lui writes, that is the mother of truth.
Writers everywhere tend to feel a natural kinship, country to country, language to language. We write to be true to some urgency of self. We find identity in the lines of poetry we write, in the sentences and paragraphs of our novels and essays. We write to think ourselves into existence.
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