The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945–1957

Frank Dikötter. Bloomsbury, $30 (400) ISBN 978-1-62040-347-1
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Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine (2010) won the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2011, and his prequel is just as well composed and heartbreaking to read. He draws on Chinese archives to detail the depth of tragedy, oppression, dehumanization, and death visited on the people of China under Mao’s leadership before the horrifically misnamed “Great Leap Forward.” Dikötter sets the stage in his preface, where he calls the initial period of the revolution “one of the worst tyrannies... of the twentieth century,” which sent “to an early grave at least 5 million civilians.” The book goes on to offer both statistical and anecdotal evidence of the hardships and terror that the Chinese endured; waves of collectivization in the countryside reduced villagers to near-starvation levels of diet, while in urban areas “capitalists” and “intellectuals” were forced to divest themselves of all property, and party members were subject to Mao’s whims. Hunger, humiliation, torture, and suicide fill these pages. This isn’t an easy book to read, especially as readers will already understand that the decade described here is only the beginning of Mao’s reign of terror, but it is a vital study of a crucial period of history. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 09/24/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-62040-349-5
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-4088-8635-9
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