Reading: Liao Yiwu – The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up

Normally I say nothing about the books I’m reading, I have a superstition that to do so would cause me to feel obligation over the enjoyment of reading, and so I’d read less. This book though, I’ve been waiting for ever since I discovered it existed.

I first an excerpt of Liao Yiwu in The Paris Review late 2006, part of The Leper and the Corpse Walkers, almost too strange to be real, I always hoped I’d somewhere on the internet I’d find all of it. And during pestilence this was a text I’d hoped to make into something. Then reading one of my many adored China blogs, to my delight I found it’s an entire book, so naturally I ordered it immediately. And today, in desperate need of more reading, I wandered into Imprints, and it had arrived. mmmm tonight I shall eat in bed and leave food stains on my brand new book.

To light the way to heaven. And the white lantern, the fake money, and the black robe helped create an atmosphere of mourning. The lantern also served a practical purpose—but let me finish my story. Piggy and I decided to keep following the corpse walker. The corpse looked a head taller than an ordinary person and wore a big straw hat. Beneath the hat was a white paper mask—one of those sad-looking masks like they wear in operas. The guy at the front would chant, Yo ho, yo ho, and strangely enough the corpse would cooperate just like a well-trained soldier. He followed the guide with great precision. For example, when the guide and the corpse were climbing some stone steps on the street, the guide said, Yo ho, yo ho, steps ahead. The corpse paused for a second, then moved up the stairway, step by step, with its body tilting back stiffly. Piggy and I followed the pair for about four miles, all the way to a small inn on a quiet side street. While the corpse waited at the entrance, the guide walked into the lobby, tapped on the counter, and said in a low voice, The god of happiness is here.

— liao yiwu – the corpse walker