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Drawing on a variety of foreign authors such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Camus, in this essay Yan Lianke reflects on the potential contrast between the living conditions under which an author finds himself or herself, and the qualities that the author upholds through his or her their writing. Citing Dostoevsky as his opening example, Yan Lianke considers the phenomenon of authors who must live under abject conditions (a situation that he describes as “living without dignity”) but who nevertheless have a commitment to high values that they maintain in their writing (which Yan Lianke calls “writing with honor”). Yan Lianke argues that, given current sociopolitical realities, no one in contemporary China is capable of truly living “with dignity,” but it is nevertheless possible for them to write “with dignity” and to “struggle not to simply ingratiate [themselves] with power.”

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