September 21, 2011


Henning Mankell and The Man from Beijing (Benny Morris, September 20, 2011, National Interest)

Over the past few years, the image of Mao Tse-Tung, China's legendary Communist leader, has taken a severe beating, from which I doubt it will recover. Recent works--most notably Frank Dikkoter's Mao's Great Famine; the History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe and Jung Chan's and Jon Halliday's Mao: The Unknown Story --have convincingly portrayed Mao as an unfeeling and, ultimately, foolish tyrant, the greatest mass murderer of modern history.

Dikkoter says Mao was responsible for as many as 45 million deaths in his misguided Great Leap Forward, the state-run economic revolution of 1958-1962 that led to mass starvation and much deliberate, brutal murder besides. Some apologists claimed that Mao didn't know. But Chinese documents unearthed by Dikkoter proved otherwise. In one speech Mao said: "It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill."

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more were murdered during Mao's second great initiative, the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1969, in which much of the middle class was purged and sent to re-education prisons, millions of lives being ruined. Mao allegedly said of the many thousands driven to suicide: "It is not as if we cannot do without a few people."

Which brings me to the Swede, Henning Mankell's, recent thriller, The Man from Beijing, which deals with the slaughter of nineteen innocents in a remote Swedish village by a Chinaman avenging his family's slighted honor in an incident a century before. Mankell is a continuously best-selling writer--his books have sold millions of copies in dozens of languages--who is a prominent supporter of the Palestinian cause. Last year he famously took part in the Turkish-Islamist-orchestrated Gaza flotilla. In Man from Beijing he offers up a whitewash of Mao, who was a hero to much of Western Europe's youth in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In the last Wallander novel, The Troubled Man, Mankell frets about Sweden having collaborated during the Cold War with...(wait for it)...the United States.

Posted by at September 21, 2011 6:48 AM

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