THE LAST EMPEROR by Arnold C. Brackman


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Brackman, a veteran Far East correspondent for UP and the Christian Science Monitor, is having no part of a detente. A more staunch anti-Communist you will not find this side of Dulles' ghost. His biography of P'u Yi, the last emperor of China, belongs to a school of popular history that hardly distinguishes itself from cheap melodrama--why should it, if ""the ironies of history are beyond rational comprehension"" anyway? On the empress dowager Tzu Hsi who placed P'u Yi on the Dragon Throne in 1908 when he was two: ""Her milk was gall."" Mao appears early on as a coward and a bully, but retreats to the wings of Brackman's stage while gentle, ineffectual P'u Yi (he's ""a prisoner of historical forces,"" ""history's pawn,"" ""overshadowed by events"") allies his ancestral title with the Japanese after their invasion and occupation of Manchuria. Brackman, who covered the Tojo Trial in 1946, maintains that P'u Yi was brainwashed and the People's Republic is a modern police state which stifles individualism, initiative and originality. Cecil B. DeMille would probably reject P'u Yi's ""futile life-long struggle against the fortunes of destiny"" as too maudlin; as history, it's a fine example of anachronistic doublethink.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1975
Publisher: Scribners