A profoundly grim, sanguinary account of the suffering of a young woman during the days of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution.
Lian Xi (World Christianity/Duke Divinity School; Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China, 2010, etc.) begins with the 1965 sentencing of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist fighting “the dark forces of repression and injustice.” She was executed in 1968; by law, her family then had to pay a 5-cent fee for the bullet. Lin Zhao had been in political trouble through most of her youth. She had a constitutional inability to lie low and instead wrote fiery poems and letters to the press and smeared images of Mao with her own blood. Compounding all of her suffering was tuberculosis. She spent time in the prison hospital, though she sometimes refused treatment. She often wrote poems and letters in her own blood. As the author reveals, she had initially been a communist, then became a devout Christian, finding in that religion some context for her suffering—and her suffering was profound: TB, harsh life in a prison cell, and physical abuse by guards and other prisoners. Readers will be astonished that she survived so long and was able to hold fast to her opposition. Most of her writing survived in government files, and Lian Xi—determined and imaginative—read her works and interviewed key figures, creating an effective tribute to a remarkable human being. The text is academic in structure (including more than 60 pages of bibliography and endnotes), but the author’s diction will appeal to general readers. He allows his own voice to emerge occasionally, most notably at the end, where he writes about his hotel room, not far from where Lin Zhao was imprisoned.
A moving account of astonishing human courage in the leering face of human cruelty.