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Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine [Anglais] [Broché]

Jasper Becker

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Hungry Ghosts Journalist Jasper Becker conducted hundreds of interviews and spent years immersed in detective work to produce this first full account of the dark chapter in Chinese history--Chairman Mao Ze-dong's secret famine of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In this horrific story of state-sponsored terror, cannibalism torture and murder, China's communist leadership boasted of record harvests and actually i Full description

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ON A TOMB in the capital of the Shang dynasty (c.1480-1050 BC), the first in Chinese history, is an inscription: 'Why are there disasters? Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5  34 commentaires
96 internautes sur 100 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Read it and weep 6 novembre 2002
Par G. B. Talovich - Publié sur
I immediately recognized the photo on the cover of Hungry Ghosts, a boy and two women (one carrying a baby) pulling a plow. When I first came to Taiwan, a few days after Lin Biao died and a few weeks before Nixon visited Mao, the government here frequently published this photo as evidence of how wrong things had gone in the PRC. Pooh, I thought, things can't possibly be as bad as they said. For proof I looked to the glowing reports published by the first American reporters to visit: one even brought along her father, who had been a missionary, and could speak some Chinese.
Years after Mao died, when the PRC started opening up, it became evident that the KMT had vastly understated its case, perhaps to avoid panic here. Hungry Ghosts documents a tragedy that the world hardly noted.

I would be the last to claim expertise on PRC government affairs, but one reason I believe Hungry Ghosts is credible is that detail after detail meshes with bits and pieces I had picked up over the years, unaware of the extent of the disaster.
Example: Becker mentions the dams peasants had to build. In the early 1980s, Mr Wei, from a family of tea farmers in Fujian, told me why his relatives starved:"We were told that tea is decadent and capitalistic. We were ordered to tear out all the tea trees and plant grain. Our family has farmed those hills for generation after generation. We know the soil, we know the climate, and we know that grain cannot grow there. We were ordered to build a dam. We didn't know how, so we asked the cadres. They said,'Ask an old farmer.' We had no choice, so a couple old farmers got together and planned a dam, even though they had never seen one, either. We toiled and toiled. Since we were producing no crops, we had little to eat. Finally, our dam was finished. As soon as we let the water flow, it washed away the dam. We asked the cadres what to do. They said, 'Grow tea.' But we couldn't harvest tea for several years. For three years, we had nothing to eat. Many of my relatives starved." Anybody who reads Hungry Ghosts will recognize the elements in this story. For me, practically the whole book reads like this, corroborating things I had seen and heard over the years.
Mr Becker speaks with authority on modern China, but his ancient history is weak. The first chapter opens with "an inscription on a Shang tomb." I have never heard of an inscription on a Shang tomb. In, yes; on, no. If the inscription is translated correctly, it is hardly typical of early Chinese thought (unless the 'Emperor' refers to the god Di). Becker makes some outlandish comments about Confucianism. Okay, big deal, his book is about modern, not ancient China. His explanation that the Cultural Revolution was a response dealing with the GLF makes sense of an otherwise senseless convulsion.
Dear reader, this is a heart-breaking book. May you and I never suffer as those poor people suffered. May such times never come again.
29 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Nice Job, Excellent Read 20 avril 2001
Par Mark K. Mcdonough - Publié sur
I found this book well-written, well-organized, and moving. It's interesting to see how many Chinese readers consider it ethnocentric and anti-Chinese. I didn't take it that way at all -- Mao's sort of madness is all-too-universal in human history, and the story left me with a sense of great admiration for the Chinese people who somehow suffered through this period. Becker is also very careful to point out that the real roots of the disaster were not in China but in Mao's enthusiasm for actions of Stalin and the writings of Marx.
And if the portions on Mao sometimes read like a bio of Idi Amin, well, I'd consider that appropriate. He was a murderous, vainglorious sociopath. The fact that he was right about the terrible crimes of the Western powers against China neither changes nor justifies a thing.
Anyway, a very nicely written and fascinating account that left me wanting to learn more about both ancient and modern Chinese history.
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The greatest peacetime disaster of the 20th century 26 décembre 2003
Par Peter D. Tillman - Publié sur
A horrifying and well-researched history of how Mao's "Great
Leap Forward" became the worst famine in history, killing
perhaps 30 million Chinese (1958 - 1960) -- it appears
unlikely an exact fatality figure will ever be known. Which
adds to the horror, I think, that millions of people, with hopes
and dreams like our own, could vanish without leaving
a trace, even a number, in the world outside their homes.
Not to mention uncounted millions of children whose lives
were blighted by brain-damage from malnutrition....

FWIW, Jasper concludes that Mao's Great Famine was more
omission than commission (in contrast to Stalin's): Mao's
absurd ideas of backyard industrialization, plus turning
loose the Red Guards chaos, ruined the harvests. Then
Communist Party officials simply denied the problem, and
concocted elaborate coverups -- even painting the tree
trunks to hide that the bark had been eaten by starving
people -- when Mao or senior officials were to visit famine
areas. And a smiling-peasants "Big Lie" for foreigners,
which worked for years.

It's a remarkable, and depressing, account. Highly recommended.

review copyright 1999 by Peter D. Tillman
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 new insight into the political evolution of China 6 avril 1997
Par Un client - Publié sur
I found this book fascinating albeit dry and redundant at times. The information about cannibalism and its long history in this country is worthy of serious thought vis a vie Western values. The author's analysis of how the famine came to be, its roots in Russian agrarian "reform", the politically incredible way in which it was perpetrated and perpetuated, and the internal repercussions for this vast country, then and to the present, make this a must read for all who are interested in what makes China tick. (I would recommend skipping the chapters on how the famine affected various provinces...and read the bios at the back of the book first). It really makes one thankful for a country with free press and free speech
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Astonishing, Horrifying, Catastrophe... 19 mai 2001
Par Arthur S. Ross - Publié sur
It has often been said that, to understand China, you must know of its past. Here is a compelling treatment of a chapter in China's history that is almost a black comedy. Mao's Great Leap Forward is predicated upon such preposterous silliness that we chuckle at its absurdities (eg, the crops will improve with "deep planting" at up to 12 feet; steel can be made by all in back yard smelters, etc...). Yet...the consequences are so awful, that any thought of smiles is quickly erased.
Historians differ, but here was want and famine on a scale unprecedented in the 20th century. Perhaps as many as 30,000,000 died. Another reviewer scoffs at this number and says that it was "only" 10,000,000. Whatever the number, this is still an unthinkable tragedy, and one that happened in our lifetime. Like the Taiping Revolution that claimed as many as 22,000,000 lives (read "God's Chinese Son"), it left an indelible, but largely unknown mark on China - one that shapes the country today as it emerges as the only "other" super power.
Well written and fascinating.
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