The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962

By Yang Jisheng; Edward Friedman (Editor); Stacy Mosher (Editor)
(Farrar Straus Giroux, Paperback, 9780374533991, 629pp.)

Publication Date: November 19, 2013

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The much-anticipated definitive account of China’s Great Famine  

An estimated thirty-six million Chinese men, women, and children starved to death during China’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early ’60s. One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, the famine is poorly understood, and in China is still euphemistically referred to as “the three years of natural disaster.”

As a journalist with privileged access to official and unofficial sources, Yang Jisheng spent twenty years piecing together the events that led to mass nationwide starvation, including the death of his own father. Finding no natural causes, Yang attributes responsibility for the deaths to China’s totalitarian system and the refusal of officials at every level to value human life over ideology and self-interest.

Tombstone is a testament to inhumanity and occasional heroism that pits collective memory against the historical amnesia imposed by those in power. Stunning in scale and arresting in its detailed account of the staggering human cost of this tragedy, Tombstone is written both as a memorial to the lives lost—an enduring tombstone in memory of the dead—and in hopeful anticipation of the final demise of the totalitarian system. Ian Johnson, writing in The New York Review of Books, called the Chinese edition of Tombstone “groundbreaking . . . One of the most important books to come out of China in recent years.”


About the Author

Edward H. Friedman (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University) is Chancellor s Professor of Spanish and Professor of Comparative Literature at Vanderbilt University. His primary field of research is early modern Spanish literature, with special emphasis on picaresque narrative, the writings of Cervantes, and the Comedia. He also has worked widely in contemporary narrative and drama. His books include "Cervantes in the Middle: Realism and Reality in the Spanish Novel" (2006), "The Unifying Concept: Approaches to the Structure of Cervantes Comedias, The Antiheroine s Voice: Narrative Discourse and Transformations of the Picaresque, Wit s End: An Adaptation of Lope de Vega s" La dama boba (performed by Vanderbilt University Theatre as part of its 2006-2007 season). He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Scholar Program, and the National Humanities Center. He is editor of the "Bulletin of the Comediantes" and has served as president of the Cervantes Society of America. Nominated by Brigham Young University, he was selected for the Sigma Delta Pi "Orden de Don Quijote" Award in 2005. The recipient of teaching awards at Arizona State University and Indiana University, he was presented the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at Vanderbilt in 2006.

Stacy Mosher learned Chinese in Hong Kong, where she lived for nearly 18 years. She is the co-translator of Yang Jisheng's "Tombstone". A long-time journalist, Mosher currently works as an editor and translator in Brooklyn.
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