Nonfiction by Bei Dao
Edited by Christopher Mattison
Bei Dao has gained international acclaim for the hauntingly interior landscapes of his poetry, which has been translated and published in some twenty-five languages around the world. Now, in Midnight’s Gate, Bei Dao redefines the essay form with the same elliptical precision of his poetry, but with an openness and humor that complement the intensity of his poems. The twenty essays of Midnight’s Gate form a travelogue of a poet who has lived in seven countries since his exile from China in 1989. Like musical notes one the wind, the words carry us from a conflagration in New York, to the destruction in Palestine, to a prison in South Africa, to Norway, to Altea, to Inner Mongolia, to Death Valley, to a baseball game in Sacremento. At one point we are led into a basement in Paris where a production of Gorky’s Lower Depths unfolds for an audience of one, the next moment we are in the mountains of China were Bei Dao worked for eleven years as a concrete mixer and ironworker. In these essays, the subjective experience deepens and multiplies as the reader dives into the everyday lives of immigrants, artists, political figures, as well as a host of prominent writers. And it all coheres with a poet’s observations, meditations, and memories.