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Grass Soup

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  99 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Zhang Xianliang, one of China's greatest living writers, spent twenty-two years in Chinese prisons and labor camps until his "rehabilitation" in 1979. Through most of those years he kept a diary of his experiences. Because any detail would have meant the diary's destruction and Zhang's execution, the entries were curt and cryptic; sometimes entire days were condensed into ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 4th 1995 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1993)
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Nov 14, 2014 Velvetink rated it it was amazing
Thought police Mao style, 1950's & 1960's. Re-education work camps. It's not great literature, but even so, Zhang's descriptions of the political mind games & austerity stay with you. I'm left thinking about grass as food and how any kind of extreme ideology brings out the worst in humanity.

50cents 17//1/14
Lorenzo Berardi
"Grass Soup" is an extraordinary little book dealing with the infamous Chinese "labour camps" during the worst years of the Communist regime, when the horrors of Bejing rhymed with the ones of Pyongyang.

At that time, Zhang Xianliang was barely 23 years old but already labelled as a right-wing extremist and an enemy of the Chinese people. Zhang was an "intellectual", a pernicious, disgusting semi-human sub-specie created by the evil influence of the American imperialism in the socialist Chinese
Nov 19, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2013
In 1958 at the age of 23 Xianliang was imprisoned for being a poet and an intellectual.

Two years later he was allowed to keep a small notebook and a pen, and began to keep a diary. Almost all his notes and camp records were destroyed in front of him but the authorities allowed him to keep his notebook, from that he wrote of his experiences in the camp, deciphering the cryptic notes.

It is a heart wrenching tale. He was treated harshly, like all the others in the camp, but never brutally. They we
Jan 15, 2008 Grace rated it it was amazing
a beautiful, poignant, poetically written memoir of the author's golden years spent in LABOR REFORMATION CAMPS. seriously, it's amazing writing and very worth the read if you're interested in a "dissident" (totally harmless poet's) view of this dark corner of chinese history.
Feb 20, 2015 nicole rated it really liked it
sooo fascinating!
Sara Haenes
Jan 31, 2008 Sara Haenes rated it really liked it
Provocative but sad. Set in a Chinese concentration camp.
Dec 18, 2013 Dixie rated it really liked it

This non-fiction account of the Chinese writer, Zhang Xianliang's twenty-two years in Chinese prisons & labor camps until he was "rehabilitated" in 1979 is amazing. Condemned as an "intellectual. "The story is from diaries that during most of the years in prison he kept. With his potential for being executed for the diary, it is beyond me to think how he wrote it in the first place and then was able to keep it a secret and then write this book & live! A look into how a major country almo
Lori Clark-Erickson
Lexile: 1130
Historical Event/Time Period: Chinese labor camps in the 1960 19s
Liked: The story took place in China and told some very interesting things about the Chinese Government. This is quite an interesting book if you are into Chinese history.
Disliked: The main character rambles on a lot about his hunger and his fatigue.
Summary: Zhang, who was sent to the Chinese labor camp for being a writer and a poet, is trying to survive the hardship of the camp. Food rationing across China has been tak
Paula Nichols
Jun 12, 2016 Paula Nichols rated it liked it
I read this already knowing a little about this period of Chinese history, and the paranoia bred into people thanks to the different drives for 'honesty' put in place by the Mao leadership. Zhang describes the relentless questionings of himself and his fellow prisoners well, and the mental punishments and endless self examinations endured. It's not what I would call a 'fun' read, nor is it particularly gripping in story - after all it is a diary. However, to understand what the Chinese people ...more
Jan 10, 2010 Judi rated it really liked it
This is an expanded diary of an intellectual who spent 22years in Chinese prison and labor camps. This book covers his entries from 1960, which he wrote in brief and then expanded into this book. Awful, awful -- what was Mao thinking? Why did the people go along with this? Shocking fact: famine-related deaths in China from 1960-62 are estimated at 30,000,000! For me who knows virtually nothing of Chinese history, this book left me with more questions than answers about the Cultural Revolution ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Pola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Przerażające, jak wiele cierpienia jest w stanie człowiek przetrwać. Do czego człowiek jest zdolny, żeby siebie ocalić, mimo, że wie jak irracjonalne działania musi podjąć. Samokrytyka, wiece, szpiegowanie i wydawanie współwięźniów nabiera innego wymiaru, gdy jest wynikiem chęci ocalenia siebie.
Dec 01, 2008 Brooke rated it it was ok
Again, having to read this one for China class =/ NOT looking forward to it...uck. Stay tuned....

Well I finally finished it. It took awhile. I didn't care for it. There were interesting parts, but overall, i guess i just didn't like the style of writing.
Liz Neale
May 01, 2015 Liz Neale rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book on his life inside a reform camp. Makes you wonder how anyone could survive
something like that living on nothing but grass soup.
Danielle rated it liked it
May 11, 2016
David R. Godine
David R. Godine rated it it was amazing
Jun 27, 2014
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Zhang Xianliang (Chinese: 张贤亮; December 1936 – 27 September 2014) was a Chinese author and poet, and former president of the China Writer Association in Ningxia. He was detained as a political prisoner during the Anti-Rightist Movement in 1957, until his political rehabilitation in 1979. His most well known works, including Half of Man is Woman and Grass Soup, were semi-autobiographical reflection ...more
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