Just over fifty years ago, China’s Cultural Revolution began. The movement was intended to bring about a return to revolutionary Maoist beliefs and resulted in attacks on intellectuals and those believed to be counter-revolutionaries, capitalists and rightists; a large-scale purge in government posts; the appearance of a personality cult around Mao Zedong; and an estimated death count of between one and three million.
When Katherine Luo moved from Hong Kong to mainland China in 1955 to study drama and opera, she hoped her ideals and patriotism might help to build her country. Like many citizens, she loved the motherland and admired its revolutionary leaders. After years of completely trusting the regime, rationalizing its decisions and betrayals, and criticizing herself for doubting the Party, she realized that no matter how much she loved China, it would never love her back because she had the wrong background—capitalist class origins and overseas connections.
The Unceasing Storm describes Luo’s personal struggles—among other things, she was expelled from university, forbidden to marry her first love, and accused of being a spy—but it is also the memoir of a generation, representative of similar incidents occurring all over China. Luo’s colleagues and famous artists were dogged by their backgrounds—the unluckiest in the “to be executed, imprisoned or placed under surveillance” category; family members and teachers were labelled rightists; friends and war heroes were imprisoned; careers were ruined, families separated, ordinary people lifted to power one morning and destroyed overnight.
Some of those with stories to tell perished, of those who lived, many prefer to forget, and others burned all written records to avoid being incriminated. When the people involved in the revolution have all died, it will be all too easy to forget or pretend it never happened. The Unceasing Storm is one step towards creating a truthful record of contemporary China.
About the authors
Katherine Luo is the author of Traces of Time (Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Writers’ Association, 2010). She has also contributed to periodicals including Ricepaper and The Malahat Review. She taught Mandarin at Simon Fraser University and taught piano and voice for many years. She lives in Vancouver, BC.
Madeleine Thien (born 1974) is a Canadian short story writer and novelist. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, she was educated at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. In 2001 she was awarded the Canadian Authors Association Air Canada Award for most promising Canadian writer under age 30. In 2008, she was invited to participate in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
The Sudbury Star
“...[Unceasing Storm] is a picture of people living through generation after generation of heartbreak...a revelation of the Chinese people’s tenacious persistent hope against all evidence.” ~ Phyllis Reeve, Dorchester Review, Fall/Winter 2018