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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lot of nerve, kicking a cadre like that!” “Let’s get him! What a bully!” A group of workers surged forward and seized me by the arms. The cadre scrambled to his feet, clutched my collar, and wrapped himself around my neck like a millstone. I had not expected my efforts to boomerang, but they had. The crowd had turned on me in an instant. My companions tried in vain to intervene, but we were outnumbered, and all of us were hustled off to the police station. The voice of experience told me that

and flirted for a moment. The toughest ones shook us off with insults. It was the autumn of 1974. When harvesttime came, all the peasants went home to help. I had no desire to return to Xinwang Village, and a skeleton staff was needed at the construction site during the interim, so Lao Wang kept me as dormitory watchman. With only a few odd jobs to do around camp, I had plenty of time to study. I had been teaching myself English, although I had never spoken it with anyone. I owned a copy of the

instead of human labor for heavy loads. They finally had electricity, and most people had televisions. Some even had telephones. “The biggest change was the new policy of letting the peasants plant private orchards instead of forcing them to grow grain on terraces in the mountains.* The mountainside is covered with trees, and the only grain fields are on the flats beside the river. But people still have enough grain because the new incentive system means higher yields, and they can buy grain

the sheriff hustled me back to the barracks for a search, beginning by inspecting my person. Opening my package of Albanian cigarettes, the sheriff carefully squeezed each one between his fingers, like a hero in the movies searching a captured American-trained Guomindang spy for microfilm. Then they ransacked my bunk too and discovered my disrespectful use of the thick second volume of Mao’s Selected Works instead of a brick to prop up one of its wobbly legs. They found the antique book

had shortcomings of their own. They were well aware that no other job would give lowly cadres like them such power to lord it over people. The cadres left their families at home when they came to those disease-ridden, barren mountains and lived as bachelors except for occasional furloughs. A woman was a sight for sore eyes for cadres and prisoners alike, so the cadres’ office put out the welcome mat for any attractive wives who came to visit. Fu Xiangrong’s wife, a pretty young bus conductor,

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