cover image Deadly Quiet City: True Stories from Wuhan

Deadly Quiet City: True Stories from Wuhan

Murong Xuecun. New Press, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62097-792-7

Novelist and opinion columnist Xuecun (Leave Me Alone) offers a harrowing snapshot of life in the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Noting that “many people died silently” during the 76-day lockdown imposed on Wuhan by President Xi Jinping on Jan. 23, 2020, Xuecun focuses on eight residents. These include Dr. Lin Qingchuan, who was assigned to an isolation station where admission and discharge decisions were made by Communist Party officials “who know nothing about medicine and have almost no contact with patients.” Lin’s account also reveals that the government deliberately used less accurate tests to generate lower infection rates and spread misinformation by promoting traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment. When Jin Feng, a 64-year-old cleaner at the Wuhan Central Hospital, got Covid-19, she couldn’t get a bed in the hospital that employed her; though she eventually recovered, her husband died of the disease after local officials delayed his treatment because he couldn’t show them a positive test result (the news had been delivered over the phone). Elsewhere, Xuecun profiles Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer turned citizen journalist who spent months reporting on the “violent isolation” in Wuhan before she was detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Throughout, Xuecun pulls no punches in blaming the Chinese government’s “deliberate coverup and misleading information” for causing the pandemic. This is a masterful exposé. (Mar.)