High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on October 17, 2013 announcing the publication of her new book in France by publishers Indigène Éditions.
In a separate short statement published in French on the website of the publishers Indigène Éditions (and also on Woeser’s blog in the original Chinese), Woeser also writes:
This is my second French-language book. The first, “Mémoire interdite, Témoignages sur la Révolution culturelle au Tibet”, was published by Gallimard in 2010. In contrast to my former French-language book, I wrote “Immolations in Tibet: The Shame of the World” by contract with Indigène Éditions, meaning that the first readers of this work will be French-language readers. This has made writing this book a unique experience for me.
This new French-language book has immediately attracted attention from many international media organisations. The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, Radio France Internationale, Deutsche Welle, the United States’ Radio Free Asia and others have all reported on my book and conducted interviews with me, even as I have been residing in Lhasa. This has perhaps drawn some unwanted attention to myself, as well. However, for a long period of time, I have felt as if I have been teetering on the edge of a cliff, liable to fall at any moment. To publish a book outside the country, especially an exposé of this type, a certain amount of danger is inherently involved. So far, I am still unsure how big that danger is. However, I have been emboldened by the courage displayed by all of these Tibetan immolators, and I am therefore unafraid.
October 24, 2013
For an English language review of the book by Paul Mooney, follow this link to Forbes.Com.
Currently, I am in Lhasa.
The two months I spent writing “Immolations in Tibet: The Shame of the World” http://www.indigene-editions.fr/ceux-qui-marchent-contre-le-vent/immolations-au-tibet-la-honte-du-monde.html (my title for the book was “Tibetan Phoenix”), on which I began working this April, left me physically and mentally exhausted–even though the work is only just over 20,000 characters long.
Paris-based publisher Indigène Éditions has closely followed the Tibetan self-immolation issue–especially the fact that the world has remained largely silent in light of these numerous immolation cases.
Previous releases by this publisher include “Indignez-vous!”, a booklet written by one of the drafters of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” great French human rights and social activist Mr. Stéphane Hessel. This booklet enjoyed worldwide sales and was translated into 35 languages, including Chinese.
Because my book includes commentary from another great human rights activist, world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei, the publisher invited him to design the book’s cover. Ai’s comments quoted in the book are as follows: “Tibet represents the harshest test for China, for the international community and for world standards of justice. No one can avoid it; no one can sidestep it. By now, no one is without shame; no one is without disgrace.” Ai Weiwei immediately responded to the publisher’s request writing the following to me in a message:
“I would be happy to make this contribution, for the Tibetan people and the publication of your work. Whether you look at it from a philosophical standpoint or a religious standpoint, these self-immolations are more meaningful than any survivor can attempt to understand or express. People [tend to] only see the direct political causes… However, I am willing to give it a try–although I am fully aware of the hopelessness [of this endeavor]…”
Indeed, Ai’s cover design conveys great amount of meaning and features the name of each Tibetan immolator written in the Tibetan script. In the cover’s centre, a stunning flame design exudes the beauty of their sacrifice–as opposed to the tragedy of their suffering. The cover’s clean design resembles the purity of a white Tibetan khata—a khata which is offered to to all the Tibetan immolators. In a message he wrote to me after completing his design, Ai wrote that he “struggled [with the design]. I wanted to treat the deceased Tibetans in a tranquil manner. Courage, spirit, memory–and my own level of ignorance… There were many factors.”
Here, I would like to extend my special thanks to Ai Weiwei!
I also want to thank Mr. Robert Badinter, who wrote the book’s foreword. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Badinter is a French lawyer, professor, essayist and politician. He is also regarded as “the father of the abolition of the death penalty” in France. On the website of the book’s publisher, I read Mr. Robert Badinter’s comments regarding the Tibetan self-immolations:
“Here is a dense and tragic book. […] What the flames that burn their bodies proclaim is that they can no longer bear the aggression committed against their people, the eradication of its customs and its language, and overall the cultural genocide that the Chinese authorities perpetrate in Tibet while world governments remain cowardly silent.”
I would also like to thank my friend, the founder of the website High Peaks Pure Earth (which continuously translates my blogs into English), Dechen Pemba. She has been invaluable in helping me communicate with my publisher throughout the whole process. She also provided photographs of the book.
To be clear, the Chinese-language book “The Tibetan Self-Immolation Files”, which I edited and which was released by Snowlands Press in Taiwan last month, is a separate work from the French-language book “Immolations in Tibet: The Shame of the World”, which was released today in France. The former Chinese-language book is an 200,000-plus-character record collection that features nearly 200 photographs. That book is comprised mainly of records that detail the lives of each Tibetan immolator and copies of official Chinese Communist Party policies that relate to Tibet.
The significance of the French-language book Immolations in Tibet: The Shame of the World, on the other hand, lies in the explanations, painful analysis and forthright criticism that it attempts to present.
The following is a list of the book’s chapters:
An Overview of Tibetan Self-Immolations
Self-Immolation is a Form of Protest
Why Tibetans Protest Why the Protests have Trended Towards Self-Immolation
Considering the Demands of the Self-Immolators from Two Mountain Peaks
The Testimony of the Self-Immolators
How Self-Immolations Are Recorded
The Protest Must Be Supported
The Slandering of Self-Immolators by the Chinese Authorities
Lhasa “Regressing Back Towards Racial Segregation”
The Chinese Authorities’ “Anti-Immolation Campaign”
The Long Road of Shared Agony
Finally, the concluding remarks of my new French-language book are as follows:
For so many days and so many nights, I have pored over online photographs of self-immolators. Some of the pictures show them living vibrant lives; others show them engulfed in flames, dying as heroic martyrs. Each of these people possessed a proverbial “bone of the heart” (སྙིང་རུས།), a trait highly revered among Tibetans. Their faces all seem familiar, as if we once exchanged a smile as we passed each other on the road one day, back when I was visiting their hometown or temple. Indeed, I had visited the vast majority of these places, including the place in which I was born and raised. I therefore feel a responsibility to record this all–to speak out about all of this, to tell each immolator’s story and all of these memories that must not be forgotten.
Indeed, the “bone of the heart” is both an idiom and a metaphor. These heroic sons and daughters, who bathed themselves in fire, are all “bones of the heart” from the deep interior plateaus. Tibet does not perish, even in the midst of catastrophe, because of them. But self-immolation as a form of protest is too tragic and too painful. Because of this, I previously called for the end to all self-immolations. Even in the face of greater oppression, we must still hold steadfast to our lives. However, these calls were ineffective–a fact I understand very clearly. On one hand, the self-immolation movement resembles an earthquake or flood–it is not something that can be affected by someone’s support or disapproval; rather, it subsides only after all of its energy is exhausted. But, more importantly, the key to the problem centres on the officials and military police who continue to commit evil acts throughout Tibet. Only after their evil stops will Tibetans take their self-preservation into account.
These memories are all related to the flames of suffering. Only through persistent remembrance can those who gave themselves up in fiery sacrifice continue to live infinitely amongst us in this vast land called “The Land of the Snows.” I hold my hands in prayer and offer the Tibetan immolators my highest admiration.
This post is also available in: English