The Corpse Walker

By Liao Yiwu,

Book cover of The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up

Book description

The Corpse Walker introduces us to regular men and women at the bottom of Chinese society, most of whom have been battered by life but have managed to retain their dignity: a professional mourner, a human trafficker, a public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, and a Falung Gong…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Corpse Walker as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The 27 interviews in The Corpse Walker are selected from the 60 interviews in Liao Yiwu’s book, originally titled Interviews with People from the Bottom Rung of Society in Chinese. Liao gives voices to social outcasts: a human trafficker, corpse walkers, a leper, a peasant emperor, an abbot, a mortician, a Tiananmen father, artists and shamans, crooks, even cannibals. Ironically, every one of them speaks more honestly than Chinese official media, which causes the book to be banned in mainland China. These are the stories of unsung heroes and epic tragedies, but to me, most importantly, the work that…

Written by Chinese reporter and government critic Liao Yiwu, The Corpse Walker is based on interviews of those he met in prison: street singers, migrant workers, grave robbers. Yiwu’s subjects are of both sexes, but portraits of those like “the Yi District chief’s wife” and “the Falon Gong practitioner” introduce readers to memorable women. Not all the portrayals are sympathetic, but they shed a light on people who are in the margins--in some cases literally locked out of sight.

Sichuan can feel like a world apart, and no book better reveals it than this series of oral interviews with convicts, charlatans, officials, lonelyhearts, toilet cleaners, abbots, grave robbers and more. Their stories, filled with forbearance and forgiveness, can be read in any order, but be warned: once you start, it will be hard to put down.

From Michael's list on set in China’s diverse regions.

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