BITTER WINDS by Harry Wu

BITTER WINDS

A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Nineteen years in Mao's labor camps--as chronicled by Wu (resident scholar at the Hoover Institution) and Wakeman (To the Storm--not reviewed). When the Communist forces took Shanghai in 1948, Wu (then 11) was living in a milieu of Western affluence and traditional culture. Although his father was a high-ranking bank official, the family remained in China, and in 1955 Wu, eager to build the new socialist society, went to the Beijing Geology Institute. He was devoted to his studies and to baseball, but he soon found that college life was dominated by political activities. His middle- class background and independent mind meant that he was repeatedly denounced for holding wrong opinions, even though he accepted Communism, and in April 1960, the morning after his graduation, he was summarily arrested as a political criminal and made to undergo reeducation through labor. His narrative takes us through years of deprivation, torture, and starvation in a world where the dead were carted out daily and the living were bombarded with ideological slogans. Among many others, we meet the peasant thief Xing, who teaches the young intellectual Wu the art of survival; and Lu, who loses his hope and sanity before finally succeeding in suicide. Wu was sustained by the insight that in such a world human life had no value, that the society was rotten if people didn't count, and that he would have a purpose if he tried to change that society. And thus, after his release and emigration to this country, he risked everything by returning to China in disguise with a CBS camera crew, and now has written this book. As an addition to the genre of Gulag literature, a remarkable and heroic story, recounted with great simplicity and nobility.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-471-55645-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1993