What’s in a Metaphor?

Jemimah Steinfeld talks to Sheng Keyi about her new novel

Ed: Scroll down for a short excerpt from the novel, courtesy of Index on Censorship

Sheng Keyi likes metaphors. In the increasingly controlled Chinese state, metaphors have the power to circumvent censorship. But they’re not infallible, and it’s their demise that Sheng explores in her new novel. The Metaphor Detox Centre, published today in Taiwan, imagines a world in which people who use metaphors are sent for re-education.

“Originally written as a nightmare, it is based on events that are happening in reality and have affected me,” Sheng told me. “Metaphor disease is defined as the excessive use of metaphors. The fear of uncontrolled speech and knowledge-dissemination prompted the ruling class to create a new centre for ‘healing patients’, which is actually used for controlling people. Creators of metaphors, and metaphors themselves, are imprisoned.”