Average – Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary

This book published in 2007 is the most recent English language biography on Zhou En Lai after Eldest Son by Han Su Yin published in 1995. I had read Eldest Son.

Personally, I feel there is a problem in treating this book as the definitive biography. It is actually a part-translation of a Chinese biography on Zhou’s later years called Zhou En Lai’s Later Years. Written by Gao Wen Qian it was published in 2003 to acclaim as Gao had access to official records being the former researcher at the Chinese Communist Party Central Research Office for Documentation.

This book is also not a satisfactory translation. The two translators are professors at Boston and Adelphi Universities respectively. In the Introduction and Translators’ Note, they had stated that they had eliminated certain material, used their license to shape the book and added the story of Zhou’s earlier years and elaborated on the behaviour of certain people. So, which is the original work cannot be ascertained clearly. The absence of endnotes to support the text also means that this book, sadly, cannot be accepted as authoritative.

In Gao’s view Zhou intended to be a good person but failed. (P 311 Public affairs 2007 published). Gao’s parents had suffered under the CCP. His dad was exiled to Tibet due to internal purges. His mom was in solitary confinement for 7 years during the Cultural Revolution. So similar to the criticisms leveled at Jung Chang’s Mao The Unknown Story published 2005, readers will wonder how objective Gao was when he wrote this book. Likewise, readers will wonder why this English translation is presented as partly a half-translation and partly an original work.

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