by Mei Zhi
Translated by Gregor Benton
Published by Verso
Hu Feng, the ‘counterrevolutionary’ leader of a banned literary school, spent 25 years in the Chinese Communist Party’s prison system. But back in the Party’s early days, he was one of its best known literary theoreticians and critics—at least until factional infighting, and his short fuse, made him persona non grata among the establishment.
His wife, Mei Zhi, shared his incarceration for many years. F is her account of that time, beginning ten years after her and Hu Feng’s initial arrest. She herself was eventually released, after which she navigated the party’s Byzantine prison bureaucracy searching for his whereabouts. Having finally found him, she voluntarily returned to gaol to care for him in his rage and suffering, watching his descent into madness as the excesses of the Cultural Revolution took their toll.
Both an intimate portrait of Mei Zhi’s life with Hu Feng and a stark account of the prison system and life under Mao, Fis at once beautiful and harrowing.
Mei Zhi (1914–2004), originally known as Tu Qihua, was born in Changzhou, Jiangsu. She joined the Left-Wing Writers’ Union in 1932. In 1944, she joined the All-China Anti-Japanese Association of Literary and Art Circles. She helped Hu Feng edit the literary periodicals July and Hope. In the 1930s she began writing essays, novels, children’s stories and poetry. She published several books of poems for children. In 1955, she was forced after the attack on Hu Feng to stop her creative work. In 1980, after Hu Feng’s rehabilitation, she was appointed as a writer in residence of the Chinese Writers’ Association. As well as resuming her writing for children, she published a large number of memoirs and essays, including the present book and a full-length biography of Hu Feng.
Gregor Benton is professor emeritus at Cardiff University. He has published books on Chinese Communism, dissent in China, and Chinese communities outside China. His Mountain Fires (University of California Press, 1992) and New Fourth Army (University of California Press, 1999) won several awards, including the Association of Asian Studies’ best book on modern China. He has translated scholarly books from German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, French, and Chinese. He has taught Chinese Studies in Leeds, Amsterdam, Cardiff, Kuala Lumpur, and Barcelona.
You can read about the book and find out more about Hu Feng in Gregor Benton’s PEN Atlas dispatch.