The Poets

August 02, 2015

La Piana & Bei Dao

La Piana: In 1989 you were exiled from China and you have been barred from returning since then. How has the experience of exile changed your relation to China and to the Chinese language?

Bei Dao: At first I thought I was being exiled only for a short time. But it got longer and longer. As a writer, the most important thing for me is to continue to write, no matter where I am. The last five years have in some sense been the most difficult of my life, although materially I am okay. But the sense of solitude is very difficult, so I feel that I have to continue to write. Writing is the thing that sustains me and keeps me going. It is a form of self-preservation for me. People have asked about my being cut off from the Chinese language. But writing is always a challenge anyway, whether you are writing in China or outside. The question is how are you going to respond to that challenge.

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