Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine
The publication of this book in Chinese in
The Chinese edition, which ran to 1,200 pages, was a ground-breaking account of what may have been the worst man-made disaster in history, the great famine which gripped
Extreme violence was used, and many of the rural population were abandoned to subsist on tree bark, roots -- and the flesh of the dead.
By Yang Jisheng's estimate, 36 million people died from hunger or physical abuse, powerless in the face of the totalitarian regime that regarded people as mere numbers as it left them to perish.
This book was preceded by
The detail Yang assembles is astounding, full of horrific cases and statistics drawn from the suffering of peasants as the
Anybody who questioned the quotas was suspected of deviating from the mad orthodoxy and was eliminated, as Mao refused to discard his vision of the Great Leap Forward despite the disasters it spawned.
The disaster was blamed on natural causes and Liu Shaoqi, the number two figure, got nowhere with his more realistic analysis of human responsibility.
In one prefecture in
It is this aspect of the book that gives it a resonance stretching beyond its collection of horrific facts. Excellently translated by
'The basic reason why tens of millions of people in
The effect of the poor harvests and droughts
Yet the totalitarianism that Yang speaks of is still there. The army was brought in to crush dissent in
Although his book is not published in
In something of a breakthrough, the English-language edition of Global Times, the
The question today is whether that will continue to be tenable for a fast-evolving society in which people's passive acceptance of oppression is far less than that of the dead to whom Yang has erected this great memorial.
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(c) 2012 Distributed by Tribune Media Services