Paul Theroux

Chuang Shang Wen-Xue

Life and Death in Shanghai

By

Grafton Books 496pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

One of the Selected Thoughts of Chairman Mao begins, ‘A revolution is not a dinner party,’ and during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (to give it its full name) everyone quoted that Thought as a favourite. They even sang it. Singing the Thoughts was considered the true test of Maoist sincerity, and in fact every Thought in the Red Book was set to music and made singable. Red Guards beat people insensible, burned mosques, marched to Mao’s birthplace, picked tea, made pig-iron, lettered big-character posters, threw intellectuals out of the window, built bomb shelters, and all the while they sang, ‘A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind , courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.’

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