A New History of the Cultural Revolution, Reviewed | The New Yorker


Western intellectuals and artists would have felt much less sympathy for the Devil had they heard about the ordeals of their counterparts in China, as described in “The World Turned Upside Down” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a thick catalogue of gruesome atrocities, blunders, bedlam, and ideological dissimulation, by the Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng. Yang mentions a group of elderly writers in Beijing who, in August, 1966, three months after Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution, were denounced as “ox demons and snake spirits” (Mao’s preferred term for class enemies) and flogged with belt buckles and bamboo sticks by teen-age girls. Among the writers subjected to this early “struggle session” was the novelist Lao She, the world-famous author of “Rickshaw Boy.” He killed himself the following day.

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