Christopher Litsinger's Reviews > The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China

The Last Manchu by Pu Yi
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Aug 26, 2011

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bookshelves: non-fiction, read-in-2011, translation
Read from August 19 to 26, 2011

It's odd to read an autobiography with an unreliable narrator- after a sheltered life that could not possibly have produced and entirely sound mind, after being used as a puppet emperor by the Japanese, being a prisoner for 5 years in the Soviet Union, Pu Yi wrote this book while under governement supervision after release from the War Prisoner Thought Control Center by the government of Mao Tse Tung.
So while describing his life in the palace he says things like " I still have one of my breakfast menus for March 1912. It reads as follows:..." or " I have found one volume of my menus showing the chicken, meat, etc., used during one month in the second year of my reign." Granted, the things he is describing are shockingly excessive and probably worthy of some "self-criticism"; however, it is difficult to believe that he found these documents without assistance from the communist party, and somewhat difficult to believe he wasn't guided towards writing about these things.
In some ways this makes it an interesting read. I kept looking for hidden shades of meaning even though these would be very unlikely to have survived the translation.
I would describe the book as fascinating, but rather unengaging, as it describes parts of history that most Americans are not terribly familiar with from a very interesting perspective.
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