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Xu Lizhi’s hope and hopelessness – an epitome of Chinese migrant poets

xulizhi.jpg

A New Day, a poem by Xu Lizhi


Hundreds of thousands of people travel from China's countryside to its cities to work in factories, building devices for international consumers and trying to assemble better lives for themselves. Xu Lizhi left behind a haunting record of that life.
数以十万计的人从中国的农村来到城市,在工厂工作,为全球消费者组装设备,并努力为他们自己组建更好的生活。许立志留下了有关这种生活的令人难忘的记录。


He dreamed about it, wrote about it. He rolled it around in the palm of his hand. Working through the "dark night of overtime" in January 2014, the 23-year-old Xu Lizhi imagined himself like a misplaced screw, "plunging vertically, lightly clinking," lost to the factory floor. "It won't attract anyone's attention," he wrote. "Just like the last time/ On a night like this/ When someone plunged to the ground."
他向往这种生活,并将之作为写作的主题。在2014年1月,23岁的许立志将自己想象成一颗螺丝钉,他写道:"在这个加班的夜晚/垂直降落,轻轻一响/不会引起任何人的注意/就像在此之前/某个相同的夜晚/有个人掉在地上"。


Xu moved to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in 2011. He was looking for a way out of rural life; he hoped to find a way to use his mind. Like hundreds of thousands before him, he settled, to start, for a spot on the assembly line at Foxconn Technology Group, the Taiwan manufacturing giant linked to just about every other name in electronics, from Apple to Acer and Microsoft. To make sense of what he saw there, he started to write, his evocative work earning him a modest following in the city's small community of dagong shiren, or migrant poets.
许立志这个高中文化的农村男孩在2011年来到中国南部城市深圳。他在寻找一种摆脱农村生活的方式。他成了富士康公司流水线上的一员。为了让他在那里的所见变得有意义,他开始写作,他那引起人们共鸣的作品在深圳打工诗人的小群体里为他赢得了一些支持者。


In his 3½ years in Shenzhen, Xu captured life there in brutal, beautiful detail. In the city, the country kid found a voice that roared, publishing poems in company newspaper Foxconn People and sharing his work online. Factory workers are often treated as interchangeable, anonymous. To readers, his words were a reminder that every laborer has a mind and heart; for him, writing was a way out. "Writing poems gives me another way of life," he told a Chinese journalist in an unpublished interview that TIME has seen. "When you're writing poems, you're not confined to the real world."
在深圳的三年里,许立志捕捉到了生活中无情和美丽的细节。这个农村孩子在公司的报纸《富士康人》上发表诗歌,并在网络上分享自己的作品。他告诉记者,写诗赋予他另一种生活方式,在写诗的时候,不用局限于现实世界中。


The complex known as Longhua is home to some 100,000 workers from across China. In 2010, at least 17 attempted suicide; 14 died. Thanks to confidentiality clauses and tight security, it was hard to know what was happening on the inside. Labor groups blamed working conditions: long hours, modest pay and mindless, repetitive work. The late Steve Jobs, a major customer, called the deaths "troubling" . Foxconn countered that conditions were fine.
在深圳龙华新区,居住着约十万来自中国各地的工人。在2010年,至少有17人试图自杀,14人丧生。很难知道里面发生了什么。劳工组织指责工作环境:工作时间长、不太多的工资以及无需动脑的重复性工作。已故的主要客户乔布斯称这些死亡"令人不安"。富士康公司则反驳称,环境是令人满意的。


Outside activist circles, many accepted the notion that young workers were cheerfully trading their youth for a better livelihood. They imagined that they, like the rest of China, were rushing unambivalently toward consumer capitalism, saving their factory wages for ever-newer, shinier phones.
现在很多人接受了这样一种看法,那就是年轻的中国工人正愉快地用他们的青春换取更好的生活,他们正明确地冲向消费资本主义,将在工厂赚得的工资存起来购买更新、更闪耀的手机。


That, of course, was only part of the story. The great economic experiment orchestrated by Mao Zedong's heirs paved the way for more than 35 years of growth and profound social transformation. but it was ordinary Chinese like Xu who toiled their way to lives that their parents could not have imagined.
这只是故事的一部分。伟大的经济试验为超过35年的增长和深刻的社会变革铺平了道路。但正是像许立志这样的普通中国人为了他们父母不可能想象到的生活在辛苦努力。


Xu alternated between hope and hopelessness. He dared to hope for respite from monotony and a chance to use his talent, and twice summoned the courage to apply, unsuccessfully, for desk jobs — as a librarian at the factory, and at his favorite Shenzhen bookstore Youyi. But when a local journalist asked him about his future, he said he could not expect too much: "We all hope our lives will become better and better, but most of us don't control our destiny."
许立志在希望与绝望之间转换。他鼓起勇气申请成为工厂员工图书馆和他最喜欢的深圳友谊书城的图书管理员,但两次都未果。当记者问及他对未来的看法时,他说,人们都希望生活变得更好,但大部分人无法控制自己的命运。


September in 2014, Xu Lizhi, by then 24, walked to a mall across from his favorite bookstore, took the elevator to the 17th floor, and jumped to his death.
2014年9月,24岁的许立志来到一栋大厦的17楼,跳楼身亡。


In the wake of his death, labor groups translated Xu's work into English, leading to notices in Bloomberg News and the Washington Post. Chinese poet Qin Xiaoyu is making a documentary film about Xu's life and work.
许立志死后,劳工组织将他的作品译成英文,引起彭博新闻社和《华盛顿邮报》的注意。中国诗人秦晓宇正在制作一部有关许立志的纪录片。


Zhou Qizao, a fellow worker-poet, enned a defiant tribute: "Another screw comes loose/ Another migrant worker brother jumps/ You die in place of me/ And I keep writing in place of you."
打工诗人周启早写道:"又一枚螺丝松动/又一位打工兄弟坠楼/你替我死去/我替你继续写诗。"

2016-06-24

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