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'Cultural Revolution': from Reality to Recollection

Yang Jiang established a special bond with her pen an early age. She started writing plays in the 1930s and 1940s, and has deeply moved contemporary readers with her novel Bathing (Xizao) and several short memoirs.

She is also an important translator of Western canons. She translated Gil Blas from the French and Don Quixote from the Spanish.

Though not a prolific writer, she very early on established a reputation as a master of the narrative form and a writer of great sensitivity.

In a short memoir titled, Annals of 1966 and 1967 (Bingwu Dingwei Nian Jishi), she discloses the abuse she and her husband Qian Zhongshu suffered at the beginning of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

From 1969 to 1971, she and her husband did manual labour in the countryside in the then popularly-called "cadre schools," which were actually farms where urban professionals and government employees were forced to work and were "reeducated."

In her memoir, Six Chapters of life in a Cadre School (Ganxiao Liuji), she depicts the repressed life there.

In these memoirs, all the facts of her personal hardships are narrated in a rather impersonal tone.

Brisk humour accompanies the accounts of even the most depressing times: Watching the unprecedented perversities that took place in the "cultural revolution," she says she could only repeat the famous remark of the young heroine in Alice in Wonderland: "Oh, I've had such a curious dream!"

Since Qian died in 1998, Yang said, she has buried herself in translating Plato's Phaedo.

She has also been sorting through the large quantity of notebooks left by Qian, to "focus all my attention on work to forget myself," she said.

(China Daily November 17, 2003)

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