SON OF THE REVOLUTION by Liang Heng & Judith Shapiro
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Liang Heng was born in Changsha, in central China, in 1954; his original name, he tells us, was Liang Dian-jie, ""Liang Good News from Dien Bien Phu."" ""As we grew up we discovered that you could often guess someone's age by his name, and that at times, if someone was born at the height of a movement that was later discredited, a name could become an embarrassment, a burden, or even reason for being attacked."" His memoir, written with his American wife Judith Shapiro, a ""Foreign Expert"" in 1979 at Liang's college, is not the grimmest or the most poignant of the Chinese survivor-of-turmoil tales--though the situation of Liang's betrayed-revolutionary parents is acutely evoked. But the crushing, irrational weight of politics on all ages and conditions has not been made more clear. The Liang family's troubles have their beginning in his mother's reluctant, dutiful criticisms of her Security Bureau superiors during the 1957 Hundred Flowers Movement; at the next doctrinal turn, she is labeled a Rightist and sent away for ""labor reform."" To preserve his faith in the Party, as well as to save the family from ruin, Liang's newspaperman father denounces her; they divorce; and Liang, growing up, keeps his distance from her. But neither he, his father, nor his two elder sisters will ever escape the taint. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-69), Liang has a brief respite from persecution--now, also, as a ""stinking intellectuals' son""--through a lucky chance to join a New Long March Team (and, flaunting a Red Guard armband, collect Map buttons at every hallowed stop). In Peking afterward, he shares in the frenzied adulation of Mae. Then, at the climax of factional fighting in Changsha, the family scatters: his sisters go to the countryside as Educated Youths; his father goes to a ""study group"" for re-education; Liang, without school or family, takes to the streets. These successive happenings click into place almost like a slide show; more developed and deeply felt is Liang's subsequent stay in impoverished, backward Gualing Prefecture--where his father, supposed to teach Maoism to the peasants, finally questions the Party's goodness and wisdom. With episodes in still other milieux-factories, schools: an uncommonly broad swath of life, fluently if not expressively described.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Knopf