by Ken Ling ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 12, 1971
A nonpareil firsthand picture of the tumultous Cultural Revolution which convulsed China in the late '60's, seen through the participating eyes of teen-age Ken Ling, an early Red Guard (Ling is a pseudonym; he's now a university student requiring anonymity). As a boy, Ling was sheltered, naive, religious, obedient, but Mao's call to purify the revolution changed all that: ""Willpower turned into physical power,"" exciting his appetite for violence, revenge, change. At the outset, like a latter-day Candide, he optimistically if hesitantly joins the Red Guard ""linkups,"" traveling first from his home in Amoy to Foochow, later Peking, Shanghai, then back to Amoy; he sees, learns, and grows along the way. With his young comrades (identified by sobriquets: Boss, Piggy, Breastbeater, Big Girl) and girl friend, Met-met, Ling helps engineer the humiliating ouster of Wang Yu-keng, an old teacher against whom he bore a grudge; he makes denunciatory speeches, wrecks schools, struggles (hassles) suspected revisionists, those despised ""power holders following the capitalist road""; his confidence and sense of doctrinaire importance soar. But eventually schism wracks the Red Guard and the struggle becomes internecine: a rival faction ambushes Ling, he is dragged by the hair, has his fingers broken, watches as Met-reel's prize scented pigtails are -- tsa! -- lopped off, later sees her murdered, and finds another companion raped, her ""vagina torn and filled with sand."" Ling goes home when the Guard is told the Cultural Revolution is over (by the Army and Chou En-lai); depressed over Mei-mei's death and political failure, he considers suicide but elects rather to leave home, heading nowhere special. You are left with the impression that Mao intended the Cultural Revolution as a quasi-organized opportunity for restless Chinese youth to rebel against the state, parents, teachers, and authority but without the political consequences of real revolution -- certainly the implication here is that Ling will henceforth be content to tend his own garden. But whatever Mao's intentions might have been, they cannot detract from the extraordinary impact of Ling's experiences recorded in this amazing journal.
Pub Date: Jan. 12, 1971
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1971
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