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The very rare, true story of resilience, courage and escape from Mao’s infamous Chinese labour camps.

‘One of the greatest escape stories I’ve ever read’ Mail on Sunday

An ordinary man’s extraordinary escape from Mao’s brutal labour camps

Xu Hongci was an ordinary medical student when he was incarcerated under Mao’s regime and forced to spend years of his youth in China’s most brutal labour camps.

Three times he tried to escape. And three times he failed. But, determined, he eventually broke free, travelling the length of China, across the Gobi desert, and into Mongolia. It was one of the greatest prison breaks of all time, during one of the worst totalitarian tragedies of the 20th Century.

This is the extraordinary memoir of his unrelenting struggle to retain dignity, integrity and freedom; but also the untold story of what life was like for ordinary people trapped in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

Reviews

One of the greatest escape stories I’ve ever read…will live on as a timeless testament to the resilience of the human spirit

MAIL ON SUNDAY

One of the most compelling and moving memoirs to emerge from Communist China...gripping.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Riveting…There are many memoirs by Chinese imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), but I’ve never read one, by a loyal Party member, like this…While books such as this cannot be openly sold in China, Xu Hongci’s will of course be smuggled in and will amaze readers, especially those under forty.

JONATHAN MIRSKY, Literary Review

While there are notable victims' accounts of Nazi and Soviet atrocities, there has largely been silence from those who actually suffered at first hand the worst of Red China's astounding inhumanity to its own people. Xu's moving account [is] a must-read

DAILY MAIL

Xu Hongci is China’s Louis Zamperini, an ordinary man who simply refused to be broken. To understand the deepest source of China’s rise, read Xu Hongci's astonishing epic, a tale of ingenuity, bravery and, most importantly, unshakeable determination. Xu’s chronicle, masterfully translated by Erling Hoh, is the story of modern China itself: the struggle for freedom of body and mind.

EVAN OSNOS, China correspondent at the New Yorker and author of the acclaimed Age of Ambition

I am struck by the freshness of Xu Hongci’s whole story. We have plenty of reminiscences by intellectuals and party officials in China, but it is rare to find memoirs of ordinary people. And most tend to focus on the Cultural Revolution, whereas Xu Hongci starts his account with the Second World War, giving the reader a much better sense of how the entire Maoist era evolved over time. While most memoirs tell us how the victims are eventually crushed by an unforgiving system, one of the most striking aspects of Xu’s account is his determination to gain freedom. Xu escapes again and again, his moral integrity seemingly unbroken.

PROF FRANK DIKOTTER, author of Mao’s Great Famine

An important book: the gripping and deeply moving account of a man's lifelong struggle to reach freedom, driven by an indomitable will to survive in Mao's China.

XIAOLU GUA, author of Once Upon a Time in the East

An understated tribute to those who suffered, and a thrilling account of numerous acts of defiance: small or large, often costly.

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

Gripping... an inspiring story of the strength of the human spirit in the face of greed and cruelty.

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Reads like a Hollywood film - but this account is true.

PRESS ASSOCIATION 'Book of the Week'

There are escape stories and then there is this. It deserves to become a classic, like Jung Chang's Wild Swans, not only for Xu Hongci's survival against the odds, but for confronting us unsparingly with what happens when folly and intolerance meet unfettered political power.

THE NATIONAL (Scotland)

[Xu Hongci] takes the reader on a turbulent and fraught journey of capture, escape, evasion, survival and love. Translated with immense skill and talent, it's a thrilling read.

The Bookbag

A masterpiece…Xu is the only known escapee from Mao’s prisons

Washington Post

Gripping, moving and eye-opening

Asian Review of Books

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781846044984

    April 2, 2018

    Rider

    336 pages

    RRP $22.99

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  • EBook

    9781473528222

    January 19, 2017

    Ebury Digital

    336 pages

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