Bitter Winds: A Memoir of My Years in China's Gulag / Edition 1

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In the powerful tradition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Bitter Winds chronicles a brave man's triumph over mindless brutality and unimaginable oppression. On April 27, 1960, Harry Wu, a senior at Beijing's Geology Institute, was arrested by Chinese authorities and, without ever being formally charged or tried, spent the next nineteen years in hellish prison labor camps. Exiled to the bitter desolation of this extensive gulag, he was transformed from a member of China's privileged intellectual elite into a pariah, a faceless cipher denied even the most basic human rights. He was subjected to grinding labor, systematic starvation, and torture, yet he refused to give up his passionate hold on life. From the tough peasants and petty criminals imprisoned with him, like chicken thief Big Mouth Xing, he learned the harsh lessons of survival. Driven by incessant hunger, he became expert at scavenging for edible weeds in the barren camp fields and capturing snakes and frogs in the irrigation ditches. Reduced at one point to a walking skeleton, he took part in elaborate "food imagining" sessions with his squad mates in the barracks at night. In the crucible of the nightmarish Qinghe prison farm, he watched as, night after night, prisoners succumbed to disease and starvation to be buried in unmarked graves outside the camp walls. Throughout this stunning chronicle are moving stories of the prisoners who became Wu's trusted friends. The gentle, lute-playing Ao, unblinking in his insistence on the dignity of humanity, serves as a beacon in the moral abyss of the camps. Handsome and virile Lu, tormented by unfulfilled longing for a woman's touch, is driven to insanity and finally suicide. Buffeted by the worst horrors of the Chinese communist tragedy, these poignant figures provide a rare, detailed portrait of the depths of human despair. Released from prison in 1979, Harry Wu was eventually allowed to leave China for the United States. But his story doe
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this eloquent memoir, Wu recalls his 19 years in Chinese labor camps. Though a middle-class college student, he was initially a patriotic Communist, but he soon ran afoul of the thought police. Hoping to flee the country in 1959, he was denounced as an ``enemy of the revolution.'' The book, written with Wakeman, coauthor of To the Storm: The Odyssey of a Revolutionary Chinese Woman , focuses primarily on Wu's first decade as a prisoner struggling against starvation, seeing others succumb and learning a brutal survival ethic from fellow inmates. It is an intimate story of bravery and tragedy, including details about hallucinations, torture and the loss of comrades. The Cultural Revolution led to Wu's transfer to a mine, where he stayed for 10 years. There, he began to carve out a life, marrying a woman who later betrayed him. Six years after his release in 1979, he left for the U.S., where he is now a resident scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. An epilogue briefly describes Wu's continuing heroism: in 1991, he returned to China and surreptitiously filmed labor camps for the TV program 60 Minutes. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In the fall of 1991, CBS's 60 Minutes documented the extent of China's concentration camp system and its sale of forced labor products. The information used in the program came from the author of this memoir. Falsely accused of being a ``rightist'' and arrested the day after college graduation, Wu spent the next 19 years as a political prisoner, his plans for his career as a geologist, for marriage, and for a useful life all destroyed. As he was shuttled among labor camps, farms, and mines, he witnessed many tragic scenes of persecution, physical and mental torture, and death. Finally released and now a scholar at the Hoover Institution, he has been telling the world with a vengeance, serving as a one-man media resource on the cruelty to which Chinese prisoners are subjected. Unlike his earlier work, Laogai: The Chinese Gulag ( LJ 6/1/92), this is a much more personal account of life in the camps. A valuable addition to the growing literature on the worldwide problem of political prisoners.-- Donald Marion, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471114253
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/3/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Childhood's End.
Shifting Winds.
Counterrevolutionary Crimes.
No Way Out.
Inside the Gates.
Learning from the Peasants.
Beyond the Wall.
The Running Dog.
Xing's Curse.
No Time for Dreams.
Death Watch.
The Coldest Winter.
Kite Dreams.
Biting Dogs.
The Little Woman.
Revolution on the Farm.
Another Day.
A Larger Bird Cage.
The Journey Back.
A Resting Place.
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