Noted Chinese novelist Pu Ning recounts in the first person the harrowing trials of Han Wei-tien, arrested in 1951 on charges that he spied for Chiang Kai-shek. At first Han merely seems to be going mad in prison. He begins digging in the floor of his cell with his bare hands and over a few years carves out a cavelike dwelling and takes up residence underground. After two years, near dead and with a case of sudden blindness, he is transferred to a hospital and then sent to Shanghai's Tilan Bridge Jail, the largest in Asia. His description of the strict rules there (""No tÃªte-Ã -tÃªtes and no gestures of any sort"") and the overcrowded conditions are chilling. Collective shootings take place regularly, leaving the prison courtyard awash in blood. As part of a ""Labor Correction Team"" assigned to construct a road between China and Tibet, Han Wei-tien sees many deaths and watches as other prisoners disintegrate emotionally. At one point he muses about how the opening words of the Internationale, ""Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!"" apply to his group. He also discusses the strategies taken with regard to clothing and food. This flood of information is related in a formal language that keeps readers removed from the events, but humanity breaks through when Han meets a Tibetan woman named Yelusa and falls in love. An important social document, though not consistently successful as a piece of literature.