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Diner America by Xianliang Zhang
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Diner America (1983)

by Xianliang Zhang

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782154,388 (3.78)4
  1. 10
    Journey into the Whirlwind by Evgenia Ginzburg (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Two descriptions of life in a labour camp, decades apart - one in 1930s Russia and one in 1950s China. Both very moving.
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Distantly, very distantly this book reminds me of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
The paralel is, that an 'enemy of the state' is put away in a distant place, where the governement tries to change his views by making him work hard in a labor camp.
This book starts when the main character is released from the labor camp and put to work on a kind of farm.

The 'freedom' he has there allows him to visit a woman who lives in one of the houses on a nearly daily basis. They have a kind of relationship, but he hesitates. And finally the 'freedom' gets in his way and that little bit he had was taken form him. Put in a labor camp again, in prison, under guidance of the people, no right to even read Mao's works, they try to break him by making him work hard.

From what I understood, having read the last part of the book, they succeeded. Too bad, I'm not happy with that , but I understand. I don't think any one individual anywhere in the world is in the end strong enough to keep resisting the governement, the exhaustion, isolation, hunger and continuous exposure to propaganda.
In that light I'm happy that the book ended the way it did. Superheroes are already abundantly present in other books. In his own way, Zhang Yonglin tried his best and to me for that he's already heroic. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Oct 6, 2013 |
I didn’t expect to like this book. It’s about the author’s experiences in a political prison/re-education centre in China in the late 1950’s. The grass soup of the title is all they had to live on for months on end and the re-education consisted of forced labour. You’d be looking at the summary a long time before ‘light hearted romp through the Chinese countryside’ came to mind.

But it’s not far off that. I believe Comrade Zhang has written other books about his time in the camps, and they are probably more harrowing, but here he concentrates more on the if-you-don’t-die-life-goes-on approach. While he doesn’t skip over the inevitable starvation and deaths he doesn’t dwell on them – apart from one horrific incident he keeps ‘til the end, to send you off not feeling too happy, and therefore guilty, at having enjoyed his story.

The whole feel is bright and breezy which is at odds with the subject matter. The translation is well done, as at no point does any of the text seem clunky or forced and you (hopefully correctly) get a good feel for the author’s style and wit. ( )
  Scriberpunk | Apr 2, 2010 |
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