I recommend everyone to read what I think is the greatest study of totalitarianism in our time, outside of the work of Robert Conquest : Frank Dikotter's trilogy on modern China. The Cultural Revolution is mind boggling. I was not even aware that Mao fostered an actual civil war which turned huge cities into savage battlegrounds, that the orgy of killing was as surreal as it was.
There is a wonderful passage about the miserable fate of artists. A painter was beaten to a pulp by the Red Guards because his portrait of Mao had shown the Chairman's face inclined an inch too far to the right.
Another was imprisoned for years for showing the Chairman standing at the edge of a cliff suggesting that he had no way forward. Yet others were rewarded well for painting giant red letters on walls, turning whole cities red - the Michelangelos of the Revoution.
Cancel culture? The pale little brother of this.
"The aim of these denunciations was not the physical elimination of the regime's enemies, but to intimidate the greatest number of people possible. The objective was to produce a docile population by transforming almost every act and every utterance into a potential crime."
Still, death toll : 1.5 million violent deaths.
Lawrence Osborne is the author of The Forgiven, one of The Economist's best book of 2012, Small Player, a novel set in China and a New Yorker best book of 2014, and many others. (We also loved Hunters in the Dark and Beautiful Animals.) The film adaptation of The Forgiven starring Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain is scheduled for release in 2021. www.lawrenceosborne.net
A slightly easier read? Osborne's books.
Let's not mince words. This is a great book. Truly difficult to put down... sophisticated, smart and uncomfortable, and the story is cracking. - Lionel Shriver, Washington Post
It’s Cold In China ::: The Mississippi Moaner
Esta China ::: Etoile de Dakar (w/Youssou N’Dour)
Chairman Mao ::: Robert Wyatt
The East Is Red::: The People’s Victory Orchestra
Bring On The China ::: Pell Mell