The Life and Times of Book Idiot Zhou – John Pomfret

The following is adapted from John Pomfret’s book Chinese Lessons, which will be published next month. From the Washington Post:

On a beastly summer day in 1966, in the country-side of northern Jiangsu province, 100 farmers lined up at the threshing ground of Production Team 7 in the Shen Kitchen Commune. The threshing ground doubled as a village square, where chickens and pigs had free rein. Zhou Lianchun, a gangly 11-year-old boy with a shaved head and raggedy cloth shoes, was 12th in line.

Thwack. Thwack. The line moved forward. Thwack. Thwack. It inched forward again.

Zhou reached the front of the line. A middle-aged woman, blood seeping from her nose and ears, faced him on her knees. He pulled back his right hand and, as the others ahead of him had done, smacked the left side of her face — Thwack — then slapped her again with his left hand. Thwack. The sweat from her cheeks stung his skin. [Full text]

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