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A Comrade Lost and Found: A Beijing Story
Synopses & Reviews
A journalists search through Beijing for the classmate she betrayed during the Cultural Revolution reveals three decades of Chinese transformation.
In the early 1970s, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, JanWong traveled from Canada to become one of only two Westerners permitted to study at Beijing University.One day a fellow student, Yin Luoyi, asked for help getting to the United States.Wong, then a starry-eyed Maoist, immediately reported her to the authorities, and shortly thereafter Yin disappeared.
Thirty-three years later, hoping to make amends,Wong revisits the Chinese capital, with her husband and teenage sons in tow, to search for the person who has haunted her conscience. At the very least, she wants to discover whether Yin survived. But Wong finds the city bewildering—ancient landmarks have made way for luxury condominiums. In the new Beijing, phone numbers, addresses, and even names change with startling frequency. In a society determined to bury the past, Yin Luoyi will be hard to find.
As she traces her way from one former comrade to the next,Wong unearths not only the fate of the woman she betrayed but a web of fates that mirrors the strange and dramatic journey of contemporary China and rekindles all of her love for—and disillusionment with—her ancestral land.
"As a young student, award-winning Canadian journalist Wong (Red China Blues) spent a year in Beijing on a foreign exchange program during the cultural revolution, and in this suspenseful, elegantly written book, she recounts her return to the city in an effort to find a former classmate she betrayed with grave consequences. As a fervent young Maoist eager to fit in with her compatriots, the author had voluntarily informed on Yin Luoyi, who had been interested in visiting America at a time when expressing approval for the 'imperialist running dogs' could lead to expulsion, ostracism or worse; Yin was expelled from the school. Wong returns to a transformed Beijing. Gone is the semirural capital where the author's 'revolutionary' course of study included bouts of hard labor and 'self criticism' sessions. In its place are eight-lane expressways lit up 'like Christmas trees,' shiny skyscrapers and the largest shopping mall in the world. Wong is a gifted storyteller, and hers is a deeply personal and richly detailed eyewitness account of China's journey to glossy modernity." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Hoping to make amends, Wong returns to Beijing to find the classmate she betrayed during the Cultural Revolution. As she traces her way from one former comrade to the next, Wong unearths not only the fate of the woman she is searching for but a web of fates that mirrors the dramatic journey of contemporary China.
A Chinese-Canadian journalist returns to Beijing with her family to search for a classmate she betrayed during the Cultural Revolution, and finds China in the throes of massive socio-political change.
Praise for A Comrade Lost and Found
"Essential and compulsively readable. Wong asks the Cultural Revolution's underlying human question--how could so many betray others, and live with it now?--and answers it with a great story: her own."—Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef
"Jan Wong is the best tour guide a visitor to Beijing could have. She is as generous as she is perceptive, and her sense of humor is so wicked that no absurdity in the modern Chinese capital escapes her. The drama of the search for her lost comrade gives the book the fast pace of a thriller and the razor blade focus of a heartfelt memoir. Jan Wong at her best."--Oliver August, author of Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man
About the Author
JAN WONG was the Beijing correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail from 1988 to 1994 and received a George Polk Award and other honors for her reporting. Wong has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and is the author of three books, including Red China Blues.
Table of Contents
1 Mission Impossible 1
2 Life as It Has Always Been Lived 17
3 You Cant Get There from Here 33
4 No One Left Behind to Say Who Went Where 40
5 You Arent Allowed to Call Anyone an Idiot—in English or Chinese 54
6 Is That Why They Call It Chai-Na? 63
7 Alumni 71
8 The Decade of Disaster 80
9 Forbidden City 90
10 Building Beijing 104
11 Neither of Us Can Handle the Twenty-First Century 120
12 Seeing Flowers from a Galloping Horse 135
13 Made in China 149
14 Stand a Head above Others 156
15 Its Like Looking for Her in a Vast Ocean 173
16 This Is the Big Boss Culture! 179
17 Sex in Da City 190
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Biography » General