A swan’s little book of ire – Hamish McDonald

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A tiny widow aged 85 living in two rooms, an electric rice-cooker her only modern appliance, may be a crucial witness to a dispute involving Jung Chang, the wealthy Chinese author of the worldwide bestseller Wild Swans.

The dispute is one of many being picked up by some of the world’s most eminent scholars of modern Chinese history, who say Chang’s latest blockbuster, Mao: The Unknown Story, is a gross distortion of the records.

Few are disputing that the subject, the late Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong, was a monster as a human being and a leader who put his country through hell. Or that the book, written by Chang and her British historian husband, Jon Halliday, who live in great comfort in London’s plush Notting Hill on the proceeds of Wild Swans, is powerful and destined to be highly influential.

But many people agree with Thomas Bernstein, of Columbia University in New York, that “the book is a major disaster for the contemporary China field”.

More on “Mao: The Unknown Story.”

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