Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jung Chang, Wild Swans

This amazing, beautiful book captivated me from the first sentence: “At the age of 15 my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general.” Jung Chang was born in China in 1952, and in this book she tells the story of her family from the 1930s to 1978, when she left China for England. The main focus is on her grandmother, her mother, and herself. The narrative covers events from the warlord period through Japanese invasion, civil war, Communist takeover, and so on down to Mao's death and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's reforms. The most gripping part covers the Cultural Revolution, in which Jung Chang personally participated. This mad event, when Mao enlisted millions of ordinary Chinese people to "revolutionize" the country, attack "class enemies," and abolish everything bourgeois from lawns and gardens to almost all entertainment, inspired me to a long meditation on humans and history, which you can read here if you are curious.

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