Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard (American Lives)

Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard (American Lives)

Fan Shen

Language: English

Pages: 282

ISBN: 0803293364

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 1966 twelve-year-old Fan Shen, a newly minted Red Guard, plunged happily into China’s Cultural Revolution. Disillusion soon followed, then turned to disgust and fear when Shen discovered that his compatriots had tortured and murdered a doctor whose house he’d helped raid and whose beautiful daughter he secretly adored. A story of coming of age in the midst of monumental historical upheaval, Shen’s Gang of One is more than a memoir of one young man’s harrowing experience during a time of terror. It is also, in spite of circumstances of remarkable grimness and injustice, an unlikely picaresque tale of adventure full of courage, cunning, wit, tenacity, resourcefulness, and sheer luck—the story of how Shen managed to scheme his way through a hugely oppressive system and emerge triumphant.

Gang of One recounts how Shen escaped, again and again, from his appointed fate, as when he somehow found himself a doctor at sixteen and even, miraculously, saved a few lives. In such volatile times, however, good luck could quickly turn to misfortune: a transfer to the East Wind Aircraft Factory got him out of the countryside and into another terrible trap, where many people were driven to suicide; his secret self-education took him from the factory to college, where friendship with an American teacher earned him the wrath of the secret police. Following a path strewn with perils and pitfalls, twists and surprises worthy of Dickens, Shen’s story is ultimately an exuberant human comedy unlike any other.

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act as the little ardent revolutionary I had been before. Besides deepening my doubt about the whole revolution and the Great Leader, the ordeal did one other thing that helped foster my future rebellion against the Great Leader. In those boring and dangerous days when I was alone with my sister in the house, I wished more than ever that I had some of the ‘‘bad’’ books that we had burned at the big bonfire, those novels of foreign knights, dragons, monkeys, and monsters! I knew it was a dangerous

political rallies and funeral services. That was one of the reasons that I hated eating meals in the halls. Amid the aroma of boiled vegetables and corn bread, there was always an alien smell in the air, the smell of death. By the third year of my apprenticeship, I had attended six funeral services in the dining hall where I ate, services for people who had eaten meals with me and died prematurely. There was something cryptic, almost sinister, about this place that seemed to drive people out of

walked through a long corridor of prison cells. Before he shoved me through a black iron door toward the end of the line, I looked up and was alarmed to notice the big white ‘‘No. ’’ painted on the doorframe. It was a bad omen. Four is the most ominous number in Chinese: it has the same pronunciation as death. The heavy, rusty metal door clanged shut behind me and I realized this was not a dream. The air became immediately thicker, almost tangible, with a sour decaying smell like that of spoiled

The next morning, as my train was humming toward Lanzhou, I The Lucky Eleven  knew exactly what was happening at the testing bay. At :, Master Bu, the head of the testing group at the No.  platform, pushed the lever for engine thrust to the maximum level. The jet engine roared, soon reaching , revolutions per minute. He let the engine roar for two minutes, and then checked the thrust indicated on the scale on the left-hand panel. The dial pointed to ten thousand pounds. Everything

country separated them. Even though we did not write to each other during the college years, I still thought of her from time to time and used her as my inspiration to pursue real knowledge. Thanks in part to Li Ling’s books, I was used to studying independently and efficiently, and I found most of the college courses slow-moving and tedious. I attended some classes merely out of respect for the instructors. There was only one course, however, that I genuinely detested and actively avoided: the

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