A SINGLE TEAR by Wu Ningkun

A SINGLE TEAR

A Family's Persecution, Love, and Endurance in Communist China
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A nightmarish tale of political persecution in Communist China. In 1951, Wu (English/Univ. of Montana) left the University of Chicago to return to his native China and teach English literature. But the China that Wu returned to was deeply suspicious of intellectuals, and, two years later, Wu was denounced as an ``ultrarightist, a backbone element of the reactionary right wing of the bourgeoisie.'' What he actually seems to have been was only a naive, somewhat self-absorbed quasi-aesthete--one who tried to forget the humiliation and stress of his state-imposed public ``self-criticism'' by reading ``the Moncrieff translation of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in the shaded stillness of the garden around my college house.'' But labeled a ``poisonous weed,'' Wu was sent for ``corrective education through forced labor'' to a state farm on the shores of Lake Xingkai, a thousand miles from his pregnant wife and young son. Transferred to the Third Branch Farm for Rightists and Juvenile Delinquents and fed clear turnip soup and sweet-potato strips, he nearly died of edema and starvation. Released to continue teaching, then reimprisoned, Wu was branded a reactionary ``cow demon'' during the Cultural Revolution, then was released again to join his family for reeducation by peasants in a tiny village, with his wife as sole ``ricewinner.'' In 1974, Wu was allowed to teach ``party-approved fiction'' to ``worker-peasant- soldier-students,'' and, in 1978, his name was cleared during a nationwide rehabilitation and he was allowed to return to real teaching. ``I came, I suffered, I survived,'' is how he sums up his experiences. An often heartrending portrait of a family and a life shattered by state paranoia, and of a world turned upside-down. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-87113-494-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1992