CHINA CALLED ME: My Life Inside the Chinese Revolution by Percy Chen

CHINA CALLED ME: My Life Inside the Chinese Revolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Percy Chen's name is only the most obvious anomaly that characterized his life. He was born in Trinidad to a Creole mother and educated in England, where he attended a public school and one of the Inns of the Court, becoming a polo-playing barrister. In the 1920s his father, a disciple of Sun Yat-sen, gave up his life of wealth in Trinidad and London to live in the China of his forebears and serve as the non-Chinese-speaking Foreign Minister of the Nationalist government. There Percy joined him in 1926. While Eugene Chen adopted Chinese dress, if not the language, Percy shunned both in favor of his Saville Row attire and an interpreter, only gradually learning Chinese and never acquiring the competence to engage in domestic politics. Nevertheless, Percy went to work for his father, and this memoir records his own efforts to further Chinese interests. These included, after Chiang's 1927 anti-Communist coup, escorting the Russian ‚minence grise Borodin 12,000 miles from China, through the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, and Siberia, to Moscow--where Chen remained for the next eight years. Thereafter, he returned to China to establish a united front against the Japanese; and eventually he moved to Hong Kong where--after the 1949 Communist accession--he represented the new government in legal cases. Through all his escapades, Chen managed to lead an absurdly elegant life at endless parties, on the tennis courts, and in the best hotels (""to be 'with it'""--in 1945--""one had to stay at the Waldorf""). This high-life takes its toll, because Chen can't distinguish between important information and inconsequential details (like the wardrobe he outfitted himself with upon becoming a barrister). Though famous in his time, Eugene Chen is hardly known outside China today, so Percy's rather remote relationship to his father won't carry this trivial chronicle of a decidedly odd fellow.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1979
Publisher: Little, Brown