Leading authority on Chinese civilization
Author of picaresque
memoir of cultural revolution
OCTOBER 11, 2007
Jonathan Spence, one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese
civilization, and Kang Zhengguo, author of a memoir of the Cultural Revolution
that reads like a picaresque novel, will speak about their work on October
11, 2007. Kang will read from his work at 4:15 p.m. in Assembly Hall,
Campus Center on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Spence
will discuss his work at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts
Center, on the uptown campus. Both events are sponsored by the New York
State Writers Institute in association with UAlbany’s China Semester,
and are free and open to the public.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620
or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.
Jonathan Spence, dynamic professor and storyteller,
is one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese civilization.
His newest book is “Return to Dragon Mountain” (2007), a
translation and distillation of the writings of Zhang Dai (1597-1689),
a brilliant chronicler, historian, and epicure of the Ming era. Author
of more than 30 books, Zhang Dai was born into a prosperous family of
scholars that fell from grace after the fall of the Ming dynasty to Manchu
invaders in 1644. His recollections of his youth are replete with insights
into the life of the scholarly caste that composed the Ming bureaucracy,
sketches of eccentric colleagues and family members, and wistful memories
of favorite courtesans, brothels, musicians, cock fights, and blends
of tea. These contrast with bitter descriptions of his subsequent life
of poverty and exile.
“Publishers Weekly”called the book, “absorbing and evocative....
Spence retrieves a portrait of a civilization imbued with esoteric obsessions
as well as sensuality.”
Spence has written over a dozen books on China including “Treason
by the Book” (2001), “Mao Zedong” (1999); “The
Chan’s Great Continent” (1998), a “New York Times” Notable
Book; “Chinese Roundabout” (1992), Best Book of the Year
of the American Association for Chinese Studies; “The Gate of Heavenly
Peace” (1981), winner of the “Los Angeles Times Book Award” and
the Vursel Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters; “The
Death of Woman Wang” (1978); and “Emperor of China” (1974),
winner of the Christopher Book Award.
A 1988 MacArthur Fellow, Spence was named a Companion of the Distinguished
Order of St. Michael and St. George by Queen Elizabeth in 2001. He is
a frequent contributor to the “New York Review of Books”
Kang Zhengguo is the author of a quirky, highly-praised memoir about
life during the Cultural Revolution, “Confessions: An Innocent
Life in Communist China” (2007). A self-described misfit, individualist,
contrarian and ne’er-do-well, Kang commits countless minor political
offenses with both his tongue and his pen. These offenses eventually
lead to his expulsion from university, forced labor in a brickyard, a
three-year prison term, and a failed career as a rural laborer in a peasant
Writing in the “New York Times,”William Grimes called the
book, “A mesmerizing read.... Like a character in a picaresque
novel, Mr. Kang stumbles from one misadventure to the next, his big mouth
and relaxed habits ensuring disaster at every turn.... Mr. Kang serves
as an extraordinary guide through an extraordinary period of Chinese
Kang’s other publications, which have yet to be translated into
English, include “Lu Meng” (“Deer Dreams,” 1999), “Feminism
and Literature” (1994), and “A Study of Classical Chinese
Poetry on Women and by Women” (1988).
A poet and scholar of classical Chinese literature, Kang has been Senior
Lecturer in Chinese at Yale University since 1994.