THE MAN WHO STAYED BEHIND by Sidney Rittenberg

THE MAN WHO STAYED BEHIND

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The dramatic odyssey of an American who cast his lot with mainland China's Communists following WW II--and who lived to regret it. A member of the American Communist Party who had organized coal miners and steelworkers in the South prior to entering the Army in 1942, Rittenberg was trained as an interpreter. Posted to Asia, the author stayed on as a UN employee after V-J Day, and he soon joined forces with the Reds who eventually wrested control of China. The only US citizen ever to be accepted by the Chinese CP, Rittenberg earned his keep as an upper-echelon official in the Party's Broadcast Administration before, during, and after the Revolution. An ardent leftist, he gave his intellectual and ideological all to the presumptively common cause--and, for his pains, he was twice imprisoned, for a total of 16 years. Though rehabilitated following a ten-year stay behind bars that began at the height of the Cultural Revolution, he and his loyal Chinese wife made for the States in 1980. Here, with the help of Wall Street Journalist correspondent Bennett (The Death of the Organization Man, 1990), Rittenberg offers an account of his China sojourn that's remarkable, among other reasons, for its near- perfect pitch. At the outset, he tells his tale in the same awed tones as might a callow, hero-worshipping youth. Subsequently, as he gains maturity and perspective, his voice becomes that of an aging radical no longer willing to swallow the metamythical pronouncements of despots whose lust for power has undermined a shared vision. Throughout, moreover, Rittenberg (who turned 70 last year) provides insightful takes on Mao, Jiang Qing (Mao's hard- driving wife), Zhou En-lai, Lin Biao, Deng Xiaoping, and other notables with whom he treated during his 35 years in China. The gripping saga of an expatriate whose extraordinary experiences left him without illusions about Marxism--but with his personal ideals triumphantly intact. (Eight pages of b&w photographs, one map--not seen)

Pub Date: April 19th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-73595-0
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993