The history of modern China has been filled with loss in many senses. From certain angles of vision, loss, remembrance, and forgetting orbit around figures of political repression in the People’s Republic (PRC), particularly that of censorship. These approaches posit a link between the Chinese state, national public amnesia, and international transparency that may occlude other configurations of knowing, speaking, and mourning—those of public secrecy, for instance, including stagings of the unspeakable through aesthetic and literary forms. This essay explores such configurations through Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out (2008). In the novel, narrated largely by the reincarnated specter of an executed landlord, desire and loss travel between historical, carnal, and cosmic registers, while operations of violence, politics, and memory both evoke and depart from common liberalist accounts of the PRC. On a world stage of global reading communities, the tethering of the village ghost to coordinates of apparently knowable historical time pairs with the author’s ambiguous position vis-à-vis the formal sign of unknowability—censorship. The text, the (partially) censored author, and their circulations together point to productions of loss in parallax, at once hosting and abstracting loss.

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