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Life and Death in Shanghai Paperback – 9 May 1995
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From the Back Cover
During China’s Cultural Revolution, Nien Cheng, a fluent English-speaker who worked for Shell in Shanghai, was accused of being a British spy and locked up in solitary confinement for six and a half years. When she was finally released – to face years of further harassment and intimidation – she learned that her daughter had been beaten to death by over-zealous Red Guards. This extraordinary book is the story of her struggle to survive against the odds, defying her brutal interrogators and steadfastly maintaining her innocence.
“What a story! … a gripping, poignant chronicle of courage, fortitude and, above all, stubborn integrity during more than six years of cold, hunger, disease, terror and humiliation in a Shanghai jail … I felt riveted by her struggle to endure, which exalts the triumph of the human spirit over mindless inhumanity. Her narrative deserves to rank with the foremost prison diaries of our time, and therein lies its universal value.”
STANLEY KARNOW, 'Washington Post'
“Of the scores of books on China, 'Life and Death in Shanghai' stands apart as a deeply moving personal document. One is drawn into the incredible events of the Cultural Revolution not only by the surreal circumstances but also by Nien Cheng’s narrative power and her amazing mastery of English.”
“With matter-of-fact unsentimentality, the author induces the reader into a disorienting nightmare – a nightmare less of physical deprivation (although that was bad enough) but of a perverted mental and moral world, a Chinese 'Darkness at Noon'“
COLIN THUBRON, 'Spectator'
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Top customer reviews
There are many spelling errors in the kindle version - presumably due to OCR scanning of the original print copy.
Set apart from other biographies of the same ilk, in that this is one persons story,(not family) articulating a remarkable understanding of such a complex countries politics all while suffering the inhumanity of (wronged) imprisonment. Never have I read a book and wanted to know more about the author. Just to know if she found peace of mind (or some semblance of it)
When I eventually opened it this Half term, I found myself totally engrossed - enthralled by the horrors and longing for some evidence of justice within its pages. Although I already knew something of the horrors of the Cultural revolution from previous reading and from my own, recent visit to China - where we had been lucky enough to have had a local guide who was a Social Historian and who wasn't afraid to tell us about his life; this was still something of an eye-opener, focussing as it does on the experience of one, normal, upper middle-class person.
As I read on, I found myself asking...
... how could one man have such a cult following that it took over such a huge nation so totally - particularly so soon after the rest of the world was still reeling at the horrors of the 2nd World War?
... what made them think that he was right? Some of his ideas were so ridiculous, but millions of people jumped at his every word as his "awesome power (spread) like a banket over China, threatening to smother whomsoever he chose." (p.199) And even now, many years after his death, this blanket is still evident.
... how could cultural anihilation to this extent be called a Cultural revolution? And how come so many wonderful treasures survived? How many must have been lost?
But more than anything else, I found myself asking ...
... how could one woman suffer so much pain (both mental and physical) and so much injustice - and yet still survive?
...where did she find her strength?
Our book club discussions have never been so deep or so involved. Every one of us had been caught up by this one woman's story. Her amazing strength of will and courage is an example to us all. I feel priveleged to have read her autobiography. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Nien Cheng.
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