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A Memoir of Misfortune Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375410392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375410390
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,822,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The English title of this book, which was first published in China, may put off readers unwilling to voluntarily subject themselves to 300-plus pages of someone else's suffering. That would be tragic, because they'd be missing out on a startling and remarkable odyssey, one that's both literary and personal. Su, a prominent journalist in China, was smuggled out of the country after making the government's "most wanted" list after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Two years later, his wife, Fu Li, and son joined him in the United States. Misfortune in the form of a devastating 1993 car accident that left Fu Li paralyzed and brain injured is at the core of Su's story. But in working through his guilt about the accident, he spirals outward and beyond it to explore differences between China and the U.S., political movements, love and spirituality. The latter discussion is especially enlightening. Su's reflections are a clear look at the way people without faith in God can find meaning in life through unimaginable tragedy and suffering. There are also some wonderfully pithy observations, particularly Su's discovery, when trying to buy a home, that "in the United States to clear your credit history is just as arduous as it is to remove a counterrevolutionary stigma in mainland China." Su makes regular references to Chinese literary and historical figures, but also provides lucid footnotes for the benefit of his Western readers. The translation is awkward at times, but because it heightens many of the points Su makes about differences in Western and Chinese culture, that awkwardness works to strengthen the overall effect of this powerful story. (Apr. 25)Forecast: This extraordinary memoir of both personal and national tragedy should find a large audience if it is widely reviewed, as it should be.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

While some of the many demonstrators at the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989 were killed or went to prison, some escaped China and found asylum abroad. A journalist and producer for television in China who had gained some degree of fame, Su escaped to Paris, then made his way to the United States. He settled in Princeton, NJ, along with a number of other exiles, who formed a sort of Chinatown there. After many difficulties, he managed to bring over his wife, Fu Li, and son Su Dan, only to see her paralyzed in a horrific car accident exactly four years after the uprising. Touching and delicate, this memoir mostly recounts Su's doubts, fears, adjustments, reassessments, and, yes, gratitude. Unfortunately, the translation occasionally seems clumsy. Recommended for larger public libraries. Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian Pressman on May 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Ok, I must be honest, Zhu Hong (translator) was my Professor for my Chinese Womens Literature class and I might not have read this book otherwise. That being said, as individual and beautiful as the human mind, Memoir of Misfortune truly is a work of art. The book is written as an interior monologue by Su XiaoKang as he attempts to deal with the traumatic aftermath of a car accident in New York state. Blaming himself for the accident and the pain and suffering he has caused his wife, Xiao Kang expands the scope of his questioning to his involvement in the events leading up to Tiananmen Square and his whole life in general. This book is a testament to one mans spirit that struggles to move on from one hardship to another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zhenqin Li on November 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book, Su Xiaokang, was a principle author of a six-part TV series in China in late 1980s, River Elegy, which "galvanized" the country due to its sweeping "indictment" of Chinese beliefs and values. The TV series won endorsement of then Communist Party Secretary, Zhao Ziyang. The ensuing intellectual debate was covered by prominent Chinese news media at that time.
The author had been living in Princeton after 1991, among a small circle of exiled Chinese "elites" (some of whom had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace or Literature). The author's observations of the lives of these exiles, who could barely speak English, are candid, succinct and insightful.
The book is best in its chronicle of the exiles' lives, especially the tragedy of his own family, which is touching and personal. However, the author's reflections on life in China and America often suffer from sweeping generalizations (like his earlier TV series in China) with dubious connection to realities. Some of his observations on events outside of his immediate environment are factually wrong. For example, in discussing Chinese on the Net, Su mentioned (page 272): "During the bloodthirsty spring of Beijing 1989, several students in the California area who had never personally met managed to launch a Chinese news website." In fact, the Chinese News Digest (CND) was not founded by "several students from California"; websites (as we know today) did not come into existence until the 1990s.
For people who would want to explore modern Chinese intellectual history, this book might be helpful. But it is hard to use due to absence of an index, and the book's disorganized narrative style.
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