China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation Hardcover – Oct 7 2008
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“Xinran’s interactions are extraordinary. . . . [She] uses a wide range of stories—of public-works projects and persecutions, romance and reeducation—to show how China’s masses clung to scraps of individuality amid the deadening conformity of the communist system.” —New York Times Book Review
"As Xinran crisscrosses the vast country, she proves herself to be a tenacious conduit for gently urging remarkable histories onto the page and even on film, recording the memories and lives of her elderly Chinese witnesses." —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Extraordinary in-depth interviews with a dozen unlikely survivors of the cultural revolution (the Policeman, the Acrobat, the Lantern Maker). This brilliant work of oral history—by a sort of Chinese Studs Terkel—gives a completely riveting glimpse of everyday life behind Mao’s bamboo curtain and subtly reflects on the politics of memory and what may be yet to come.” —The Guardian, Best Books of 2008
“Xinran doesn’t treat her subjects like something from a 1945 newsreel, the dutiful witnesses of history’s march. She pokes them and flatters them; she gets excited by their stories and on occasion cries along with them. . . . We see the red lines that many Chinese still draw for themselves in public discourse, or even privately, the boundaries they dare not cross even today. No other style of storytelling could have exhibited them with more clarity or greater rawness.” —The Times (London)
“Invaluable social history that textbooks don’t reveal.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A stirring, startlingly honest account of life under Chairman Mao and the current reformers revamping the socialist state. . . . Proof of how resilient and tough the Chinese people are. . . . Xinran does not leave out the average people who were the backbone of the republic . . . all of whom reveal a rich, multi-faceted national history that celebrated individualism as well as collective achievement. . . . The author puts a bow on these candid interviews with a final set of astute observations in an especially noteworthy book.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958 and was a successful journalist in China. In 1997 she moved to London where she began work on her seminal book, The Good Women of China. She has also written Sky Burial and a novel, Miss Chopsticks.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The book is a mix of stories; some poignant, some happy, some sad, some heart-wrenching, but all worth reading -- all stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.
This is one amazing book which should be read by anyone seriously interested in "true" accounts of former and current China history - but a history of its people! I have read many scholarly type books, most recently: China, Jonathan Fenby; Mao, The Unknown Story, Jung Chang; Mao's Last Revolution, Roderick MacFarquhar & Michael Schoenhals; The Long March, Sun Shuyun; and The Dragon, Harry Gelber. All added something to the understanding of the political history and to the history -makers but there was a noticeable absence of contributions by the grass root peasants. It is these amazing people who were the recipients of GMD (KMT) policies; Japanese atrocities and fascism; and Mao's despicably cruel dictatorial experimental revolution.
Xinran fills that gap by interviewing a Chinese cross-section of twenty elderly peasants. Their stories, their sincerity and candidness, their suffering and their poverty - all lived through the chaos from 1911 to the present, is truly a timely research written before these true heroes (they represent) pass on. The author's fear, and verified, is that their struggles through these turbulent times will never be told. The experiences are embedded on the old people's minds, but in most cases, have never been told. Each interviewee was asked why this was? They unanimously replied; their children would not be interested, they would be unbelieved, the stories were too painful to tell and distrust of anyone probing into their lives. Xinran's first task was always to gain their confidence, which she did. Once established, there was no fear of official repercussions, and they opened up like a floodgate waiting to be burst.Read more ›
These people are China's version of the wartime "greatest generation." Mostly they are, as Xinran says, "silent." They feel their sacrifices and involvements in mistakes of the past have rendered them irrelevant to their grandchildren. But they are the foundation of modern China, and Xinran wants to thank them.
--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization