Memories of disappeared Uyghur author Perhat Tursun

Perhat Tursun is the preeminent modernist Uyghur author, a self-proclaimed Kafka character whose work is among the most influential in Uyghur society. His 1999 novel, The Art of Suicide — controversial for its explorations of cultural taboos — was chosen as one of the 100 greatest works of Uyghur culture…an honor he rejected. As one of his friends recalled, “He said that his greatest work had not yet been written.”

His greatest work — along with five unfinished novels he was working on — may never see the light of day. Perhat was disappeared two years ago as part of the Chinese government’s reeducation campaign in Xinjiang, and is now reportedly serving a 16-year prison sentence. He will be 67 years old when he is released. As Darren Byler writes in this month’s Xinjiang Column:

The global literary community may never recognize him as one of the world’s greatest living novelists. He is out of place in this time of reeducation. He was disappeared at the height of his powers. What remains for now are snatches of his work, most of it yet to be published, and scenes from the world he created.

—Anthony Tao