Emily Parker talks with Yiyun Li about self-censorship in China, the line between fact and fiction, and whether it’s possible to create good art under a repressive regime: Guernica
Yiyun Li: It’s not based on the Zhu Ling case, but I’m very familiar with it. I think this case has always been in the back of my mind, and it seems to me that it has a lot of significance to a whole generation of Chinese.
Emily Parker: Can you tell me about that? The case has all these elements of intrigue, but the fact that people are so obsessed with it, twenty years later—I’m really curious why you think that is.
Yiyun Li: I don’t know why. There is something about Zhu Ling’s case that nobody can let go. Zhu Ling went to this school which was really similar to my high school, and she went to the university next to my university. Her background was similar to many students growing up in Beijing. It seems there is a generational or group decision in China that she will never be forgotten. I was glad to see the case covered in your New Republic article, and also that the article was tweeted so many times in China.