China in Ten Words by Yu Hua

This is a fairly hyped book; but it is justified, I think. The author is Chinese, which gives him a head start when it comes to understanding China and its myriad contradictions. He writes really interestingly about the Cultural Revolution in particular, and its enduring impact on so many Chinese people of a certain age.

The format of the book is simple – he chooses ten Chinese words, like ‘writing’, ‘disparity’, ‘leader’ and ‘people’, then offers an essay on each, drawing as he does so lessons about modern Chinese society. Much of what he says is, in a very measured way, critical of today’s China. But he lives and works there and has not been persecuted politically, as far as I know, so he is carving out a position that commands credibility.

A refreshing and intriguing book.

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