29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Hero by Failure,
This review is from: The Man Who Stayed Behind (Paperback)
Anyone who has made seeking truth his or her quest should read this book. With a painful honesty, Rittenberg accounts a sincere believer's failed efforts in pursuing idealism. He does not shun away from the truth that idealism and stupidity were often twins in human history. In fact, "faith" can make one blind and an involuntarily contributor to harm. It took the author a lifetime - including 16 years in the prisons of the system he believed in - to realize this simple truth. An ordinary person might have woken up a lot earlier, but not a believer. Is this faith or stupidity? The reader should draw his or her own conclusion. Nonetheless, what I really want to say is: although his effort in pursing ideals has failed, his life experience is not a waste; we can all learn from his lessons. In this sense he is still a hero, or in classic Chinese terms, a "hero by failure". To the reviewer below who called Rittenberg a "coward" with the "integrity of a worm" I want to ask, could you do better than him in those circumstances - in the bombing and in the prisons? That is a very pointed question.
Rittenberg's Chinese name Li Dunbai has been known to me since my childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China, though I never knew him personally, and still don't know him now. In this book it is his candid and thorough accounts of the personal experiences of the familiar history that grab me, from the opening page to the last. Unlike some other bestseller memoirs on the same period of China, such as "Wild Swans," which emphasize the virtue while downplaying the deficits of the protagonists, Rittenberg hides nothing about his own personal weakness and mistakes. Anyone who has gone through the same period knows that we were all participants, no matter how noble or gaudy our motives were, no matter you admit it or not. To deny this and dress up as a pure victim or even a hero is truly a shame. Only by facing our mistakes and failures honestly we can help ourselves.