Dissident author Ma Jian: “We used all our strength to tell Hongkongers what loomed ahead”

I’m standing in a mid-summer downpour in northwest London interpreting for a Chinese dissident novelist and the lorry driver charged with delivering a skip on to the Ma household driveway.

“Tell ‘im I’m worried I’ll knock his fence over mate,” yells the bear-sized man from the truck’s cabin.

The 65-year-old writer responds and I translate: “Ma Jian says not to worry, there’s plenty of room and you need to make space for his wife’s car.”

The driver nods and proceeds to manoeuvre the vehicle, eventually lowering the skip into roughly the correct place, leaving the garden fence intact.

Ma Jian gestures for me to follow him through the back garden. “Sorry about that. We moved in last year and are still trying to get the house in order.”

He leads me towards his self-designed shed or “book room”, as he prefers. “Come in, quickly. Honestly, I’ll never get used to this weather.”

Read on here.