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In this essay, Yan Lianke reflects on a phenomenon that he calls literary abjection, which involves the ways in which literary production in contemporary China is constrained by political and institutional forces, and the ways in which these constraints help shape the literary works that contemporary Chinese authors are able to produce. Yan Lianke compares the situation in China to the situation in the former Soviet Union, and wonders why China has not been able to produce dissident writers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Boris Pasternak, much less figures like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, or Chekhov. He emphasizes the particular challenges of writing literature in contemporary China, at a moment when the nation finds itself “in a distorted, deformed, and irregular new era.”

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