Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0393332004

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“A mesmerizing read.... A literary work of high distinction.” ―William Grimes, New York Times

This “gripping and poignant memoir” (New York Times Book Review) draws us into the intersections of everyday life and Communist power from the first days of “Liberation” in 1949 through the post-Mao era. The son of a professional family, Kang Zhengguo is a free spirit, drawn to literature. In Mao’s China, these innocuous circumstances expose him at age twenty to a fierce struggle session, expulsion from university, and a four-year term of hard labor. So begins his long stay in the prison-camp system. He finally escapes the Chinese gulag by forfeiting his identity: at age twenty-eight he is adopted by an aging bachelor in a peasant village, which enables him to start a new life.

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accoutrements of an elegant scholarly study and used them to decorate my room. I had an inkstone, a brush washer made of shell, a jade paperweight, a bronze incense censer, calligraphy and paintings, and porcelain vases, with my wall hanging of the poem “The Year-Round Joy of Reading” as the finishing touch. But Grandfather, determined to bring me back to earth, wrote a takeoff on this poem titled “The Year-Round Joy of Work and Study” and hung it on my wall. The latest party call was for

burlap scraps. Under the watchful eyes of the sentries, they loaded the dried bricks into the kilns for firing, hauled the smoldering finished bricks out again, and stacked them up to be packed onto the big trucks that came in. Unloading the kilns was an especially onerous task, since they belched foul sulfuric fumes and eye-stinging cinders. Even with huge fans roaring at the mouths of the kilns, the bricks were still searing hot. The workers on this shift toiled in the blazing sun every

parked all along the main street, which boasted a few shops and restaurants. This was a place where some of my coworkers came on their days off, instead of going all the way into downtown Xi’an. The town of Weiqu seemed embroiled in some kind of public event that day. The street was plastered with slogans and mobbed with pedestrians. I made my way toward the shrill sound systems that were blasting from the middle school playing field, where I found a huge crowd. I had stumbled into a county-wide

recuperate. He was so severely constipated that he had to pry his bowel movements out with his hand. Every trip to the toilet was like a surgical operation for him, during which he held his breath and strained so hard that he collapsed, half dead, once he got back to the cell. As I sat on my bunk, I often recalled the term “airing” from the prison novels I had loved as a child, about Communists incarcerated by the Guomindang. In these novels, the airing was always an opportunity for clandestine

prisoners to contemplate their sentences; the remaining time always seems interminable. Cracking my whip and shouting at the crows, I gazed pensively at the wheat fields until my reverie was interrupted by a stinging sensation in my arm. It was a huge horsefly, a species native to the Malan region. As I smacked it, I noticed that it had drawn blood and thanked my lucky stars that I was not toting the harvest down from Tortoise Shell Peak, in which case I would not even have had a free hand to use

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