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Reviews 599 Zheng Yi. ScarletMemorial: Tales ofCannibalism in Modern China. Edited and translated by T. P. Sym, with a foreword by Ross Terrill. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. xxiv, 199 pp. Hardcover $32.00, isbn 08133 -2615-x. Paperback $19.50, isbn 0-8133-2616-8. As soon as Zheng Yi's book Scarlet Memorial: Tales ofCannibalism in Modern China came offthe press in Taiwan in July 1993, it was an instant best-seller. In September of the same year it went into a second printing. Because it has been so well received, ScarletMemorialhas been translated into several languages, often in excerpted or summary form. This highly acclaimed book is now available in English to tell Westerners a gory tale ofcannibalism in modern China. It has been translated and heavily edited to cater to the tastes ofthose who prefer the brevity and precision ofEnglish. The Chinese-language original (Hong seji nian bet) is 686 pages long and consists of five chapters or parts, while the English version is only 199 pages, contained in four chapters, which omit similar, ifnot redundant, portions ofthe original. It is said that translation is a kind ofcreation, and the English version of Scarlet Memorial is an entirely new book in the sense that lesssubstantive chapters or parts have been eliminated, to the extent that the original Chinese narratives are rendered more precise and their impact more powerful for non-Chinese readers. Needless to say, a first-rate job has been done on both translation and editing. This book has received much critical acclaim. For example, one critic says that it is "one ofthe saddest books ever written about the People's Republic of China and also one of the most important." Another says that "Zheng Yi has assembled the most painful and damning and haunting indictment ofMaoist China that one can imagine." One recipient ofthe Nobel Prize for Literature even suggests that Zheng Yi should be a candidate for the prize. Despite all this praise, the real translators and editors sadly must remain anonymous to protect themselves from reprisal by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has denied any accounts of cannibalism. A few words should be said about the author. Zheng Yi is one of China's foremost fiction writers and investigative journalists. Politically active, he became involved in the bloody Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. As a leader of the pro-democracy movement, he was hunted by the Chinese government, but after hiding for more than three years, he fled to Hong Kong and now lives in theĀ© 1997 by University Unite(j States^th hiswife> Bei Ming ^jig inhiding, he prepared the manuscript for this book, and after his escape to the United States, he had it published in Taiwan. Prior to all ofthis, he had been a member ofthe CCP. Like so many other Chinese intellectuals, he suffered a great deal during the Cultural RevoluofHawai 'i Press 6oo China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 tion (1966-1976); he worked on a farm for six years and in a factory for another four. After the Cultural Revolution, he was allowed to return to a university where he majored in Chinese literature. He is the recipient of a national literary award for his work Yuancun (Distant village), which was later revised and made into an acclaimed film, Laojing (Old well). Why did Zheng Yi write on cannibalism in China, something that the Chinese government has refused to acknowledge? During the Cultural Revolution, quite a few Chinese officials knew of this horror, the equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust in the 1940s and the killing fields ofPol Pot in the 1970s. But they remained silent about the subject. Despite his fear of CCP retaliation, Zheng singlehandedly took on the issue of cannibalism after he came upon it almost by accident . One of his fellow investigative reporters in Beijing, Liu Binyan, told him about the Zhuang people in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who had practiced cannibalism during the Cultural Revolution. Liu confessed that he did investigate stories of cannibalism because fliey were "too evil" to be told. It was not until after the summer of 1968 that news about this horrible incident broke...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 599-602
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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