Paul Theroux

Chuang Shang Wen-Xue

Life and Death in Shanghai

By Nien Cheng

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.’

Sara Stewart


Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Only a few days left of ! Pick up a free copy of Literary Review at the festival before it's too late!,
    • In all seriousness: good for them. Our bulbous award gets a bad rap every year; delighted for ER to give something else a go.,
    • Don't me ,
    • RT : Never got round to posting this - my piece on biog/memoir of wonderful in latest issue of ,
    • To celebrate Paul Beatty winning the Booker, here's our review of The Sellout, to read for free: ,
    • Thomas Hardy's phrenologist tells him he will 'lead to no good' in a new book about his life in London ,
    • John Knox said that crowning a woman was akin to putting ‘a saddle upon the back of an unruly cow’. Tell that to Catherine de'Medici...,