THE LAST MANCHU by Paul Kramer


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Henry Pu Yi was the last Manchu Emperor of China; today he is a member of the National People's Congress. How did a man who is ""by his own admission a liar, suspicious, tricky, a hypocrite, preoccupied with a fear of death"" make this tremendous and amazing transition? In his autobiography, which Paul Kramer has cut down to size from 1000 pages, Pu Yi gives an inkling if not the whole truth. ""All my life I have been a prisoner,"" he laments somewhere amid his experience as an inmate of a Soviet prison. Indeed, Pu Yi was a prisoner of his inheritance. Grand nephew of the last empress of China, raised to power in the absence of others, his coronation was attended by bad omens. His childhood was spent amid eunuchs who flattered (""only my wet nurse ever explained to me that other people were human beings such as I was"") and flunkied, and was tutored by an Englishman who held the English gentleman as the ideal. From 1911 to 1924, deposed, he ""continued to breathe the air of the 19th century and before."" The Japanese restored him for a fourteen-year-period as chief executive of Manchukuo; with the end of the war, he moved from their ""protection"" to that of the Soviet Union. He was re-educated by the Communists (""You must study hard and achieve complete reform) who did not hesitate to admonish and humiliate the once proud emperor. In 1960 he received his voter's certificate and became ""a citizen of a country of 650,000,000 people""; he has learned the meaning of the word ""Man."" A psychological and historical document sui generis which may but should not fall on deaf ears.

Publisher: Putnam