Because I need as much focus as possible to write the new book, I have resigned from the management committee of wonderful Scottish PEN. I think I'd be more useful doing more directly practical things like organising events and I'll still do the 'Rapid Action' letter writing for writers who are imprisoned.
For those of you not familiar with Scottish PEN or indeed International PEN, it exists to defend freedom of expression around the world especially in the written word and specifically for writers. Scottish PEN is a fantastic organisation run entirely on the dedication of unpaid staff, all a superb community of writers. Both Lui Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace last year, and Mario Vargas Llosa, who won the prize for literature, have served as PEN presidents in their countries, China and Peru respectively, although sadly Lui Xiaobo was in prison and unable to attend. For more information about Scottish PEN please check their website.
I am including in this post a flash fiction which was first published in a pamphlet of writing from workshops run by three PEN members including myself during the Document 8 International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in 2010.
Xing Pi was a film director. He lived in Chiwanrea and made films about the stories his parents and his grandparents told him as a boy, stories about the village in which he lived and the artisans and monks and holy women who lived there too.
Then one day the police came and took away his notebook. The next day they came for his computer and the day after that they broke down the door, threw him to the floor and dragged him out to their wagon by his feet. Xing Pi’s wife was lucky she was not there too and, hearing the news, went into hiding in the mountains.
Xing Pi did not know where she was. He did not know where he was either and soon he did not know what time meant. He knew space and could judge how close he was to the walls he could not see by the sounds they echoed from his clicking fingers. He knew from first taste whether his food was safe to eat each day. He knew where his skin was because it hummed with bruises and sores, sometimes so clearly he could almost hear it.
A year passed in darkness but in that darkness he played all the films he’d ever seen, all the films he’d ever made and all the films he’d make as soon as he was out, because he was sure one day he would be. Flick, flick, flick went the stills on the wall and the pictures shone out with the stories of his life before and his life in that place. Tales began to grow out of the sounds beyond the walls, someone wailing for peace, the guards joking about women, the uneven tread of one of them outside the door, the same man on his journey home through the cotton fields, past the grazing oxen and through the noisy town. Until he comes to his home and finds the police there waiting.
Ling Joo was a poet. He lived in ….