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Why Am I Thinking About China Again?

Because one year after he won the Pulitzer, Liu Xiaboa is still in jail and his writing banned. "We will stick to our writing," he says in a video on the PEN American Center site:

Slow death by humiliation and imprisonment. This must stop.

I have told my 99 year old mother about Liu Xiaboa and other persecuted Chinese writers and she said, immediately, "It reminds me of the Nazi regime," a euphemism to describe the destruction of a culture, of a people, of books and ideas, of freedom itself.

My mother grew up in Vienna surrounded by books, immersed in books. Her father was on the PTA of her elementary school and distributed books to the children as gifts. A local bookseller gave out free books to children. She read all the time and the saddest moment in her recent life was the day she realized she'd outlived her sight. I read to her as much as I can--the newspaper, poetry, books her book club is reading. Needless to say, she's the oldest member. We've tried to transition her to audio, but it's been difficult.

She is still telling stories, rushing to tell them as they surface in her memory. I'm writing them all down, then posting them in emails to those near and dear for the historical record. Yesterday, a new story surfaced about a bookstore near her home in Vienna's Second District. She remembers the name of the owner--Mr. Tuchner--and a day in the late fall of 1938 he disappeared and the store was trashed and shuttered. She didn't witness his arrest, but those that dared to stand and watch spread the story of the SS officer pronouncing the store a treasure trove of Filthy Jewish Bolshevist Free Thinking Pornography. No such literature would be permitted to be saved much less published in Hitler's Reich.

The lists of books to be destroyed included all Jewish authors except for those in the sciences. These collections were spared as they were considered irreplaceable.

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