MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jeffrey Kinkley’s review of I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo, by Perry Link and Wu Dazhi. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kinkley/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk Denton, MCLC
I Have No Enemies:
The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo
By Perry Link and Wu Dazhi
Reviewed by Jeffrey C. Kinkley
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2023)
I Have No Enemies: The Life and Legacy of Liu Xiaobo, makes a magisterial contribution to Chinese intellectual and political history. It is a comprehensive biography of an intrepid human rights promoter, leader, and thinker who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize during his fourth imprisonment in the People’s Republic of China, prior to his being in effect—deliberately or not—consigned to death, which arrived in 2017, during his last, eleven-year sentence. Liu Xiaobo’s 刘晓波 major opinions and the changes in them are briefly summarized, explained, and compared in the context of his life and times, speech by speech, essay by essay. One major dividend is an inside history of a major part of domestic Chinese ideological debate and political dissent in the post-Mao age, in 500 well-documented pages, so often did Liu Xiaobo’s dialogues and exploits interact with those of other freethinkers. The book also reflects on the larger social history of contemporary nonofficial protest and agitation for reform, whose content and strategies were transmuted not just by the failure of June Fourth, 1989, but also by the spread of internet communication early in the twenty-first century. Wu Dazhi and Perry Link meanwhile proffer insights into the emotional life of their main biographical subject. He was blessed with a brilliant intellect, nearly photographic memory, and the ability to deliver memorable and charismatic speeches, despite a tendency to stutter in daily life. Liu Xiaobo was both an inveterate contrarian and an eternal optimist. And yet, in his later years, he was constantly worried about causing unhappy consequences for others (already at Tiananmen in 1989, and later, in the 2008 leadup to Charter 08). He appears to have been tormented in those years by survivor guilt and what he felt was his inadequacy and irresponsibility as a family man. The biography tends to agree with him on the latter. Yet Liu Xiaobo was undaunted about what might happen to his own person, even as he incessantly questioned the logic of his own intellect and agency, and the very moral underpinnings of his personal motivation. The reader sees also the trials and tribulations of Liu’s second wife, Liu Xia 刘霞. A unique love story unfolds in chapter 20, the last chapter before the Epilogue. Continue reading