Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wild Swans and Chairman Mao

I recently finished reading Wild Swans by Jung Chang. This memoir has been banned in China since 1994 and apparently even pirated versions omit references to Mao.

Chang looks back over three generations of women in her family and the upheaval in their lives as they endured the Japanese occupation; the Civil War; Mao's rise to power; and the Cultural Revolution. It is a fascinating look at history and its effect on one family. From her grandmother, whose bound feet were an outward sign of her lack of freedom as a concubine to a powerful man, to Chang herself, who worked towards Mao's goals with a passion, the book describes the turmoil the Chinese have endured. It also is a tribute to their strength of character. It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 30 languages.

Chang has just published a controversial biography of Mao which is banned in China, but she hopes the first Chinese translation will break through. The book took 12 years to complete.

Ironically, the book 1984 made her wonder, "in a naive way, if Orwell had ever been in China. I was reading about the society I'd been living in. How did he know?"

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