Publication date set for Ai Weiwei's 'astonishing' memoir

Publication date set for Ai Weiwei's 'astonishing' memoir

Ai Weiwei's "astonishing" and long-awaited memoir 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows will be published by The Bodley Head on 2nd November 2021 with a cover designed by the artist himself.

It will be translated into 13 languages with rights already placed in 15 markets. Crown, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group,will publish in the US. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired by Bodley Head publishing director Stuart Williams back in 2015 from Crown, which acquired world rights from Peter Bernstein and Amy Bernstein at Bernstein Literary Agency.

In the UK it will be published in hardback and digital formats by The Bodley Head, and an audio edition will be simultaneously released by Penguin Random House Audio.

The artist explained: “The idea for this book came to me during the 81 days I was held in secret detention by the Chinese government in 2011. During those long weeks, I thought often of my father, a poet who had been exiled during Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign. I realised how incomplete my understanding of him was and how much I regretted the unbridgeable gap between us. I did not want my son to suffer the same regret. I resolved that if I was released I would write down what I knew of my father and tell my son honestly who I am, what life is like, why freedom is so precious, and why autocracy fears art.”

The book promises a portrait of China over the past 100 years, while illuminating his artistic process. The publisher explained: “Weiwei explores the origins of his exceptional creativity and passionate political beliefs, and powerfully reveals the story of his father, Ai Qing, once an intimate of Mao Zedong and China’s most influential poet. During China’s Cultural Revolution, Ai Qing was branded as a rightist and sentenced to hard labour. His whole family, including his son, was banished to a desolate part of the country known as 'Little Siberia'.

“In his memoir, Weiwei describes his childhood in exile and his difficult decision to leave his family to study art in America, where he befriended Allen Ginsberg and was inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. With candour and wit, he details his return to China and his rise from artistic unknown to art world superstar and international human rights activist—and how his work has been shaped by living under a totalitarian regime.”

The artist's sculptures and installations have been viewed by millions around the globe, and his architectural achievements include helping to design the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing. His political activism has long made him a target of the Chinese authorities, which culminated in months of secret detention without charge in 2011.

Simultaneously with 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, Vintage Classics will publish Selected Poems by the artist's father on 2nd November 2021. This new translation, available in English for the first time in a generation, will feature a foreword by the artist and an original cover designed by Ai Lao, the son of Ai Weiwei and grandson of Ai Qing.

Selected Poems will be published in hardback and digital formats by Vintage Classics. Vintage acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Crown, which acquired world rights from Peter Bernstein and Amy Bernstein at the Bernstein Literary Agency.