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This novel, translated from the German by Oliver Coburn and first published in 1958, is purportedly based on experiences and reports of refugees from Communist China. The story begins with an attempted escape from a Labor Re-education Camp of the People's Security Army by two young Chinese. Other prisoners are then punished, among them Chung Ming. In a recounting of his past we learn his initial acceptance of Communist rule and then his harsh disillusionment beginning with the early in-doctrination of his village by the highly disciplined People's Army, the land reform, the breaking up of family and clan loyalties, the teaching of slogans and creeds to the children, the mock mass trials and barbarous executions. The shrewd Commissar Stalin Chan supervises first the disgrace of Chung Ming's sister-in-law and then the trial of his father, in which Chung Ming crushes his father's skull rather than see him die a slow death by stoning at the hands of the crowd. Then he attempts to murder the Commissar, leaves him for dead only to encounter him again in the Labor Camp. The Commissar recognizes him and takes his devious revenge but finally Chung Ming escapes. The enigmatic characters are rarely more than two dimensional and the emphasis is on melodrama and action rather than politics or insight, but it is authentic, workmanlike storytelling with a breathtaking escape in the end which begs for cinema honors.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1961
Publisher: Dutton