This is a hitherto unpublished diary written by a French diplomat.
It marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and the People’s Republic of China, and also that of the Cultural Revolution which began slightly later.
1965. A young diplomat is appointed to the French Embassy in Beijing, opened the previous year when relations were resumed between the two countries. It’s her first post. At the time China is a closed world from which foreigners are totally isolated.
Today the author invites us to read the diary kept during her stay, daily sketches portraying a city, recapturing the atmosphere, evoking a universe which escapes, yet imprisons the outsider. It covers two periods. The first is apparently calm, although unforseeable events are in preparation. Then in 1966 the Cultural Revolution exploded. Its noisy agitation and violence made no difference to the foreigners’ isolation. Quite the opposite.
A personal, highly original account.
The book opens with a remarkable description of a calm, well-organised city in a country apparently living in slow motion, in total contrast to today’s China.
The Cultural Revolution is still an extremely sensitive, if not taboo issue. This book sheds an unusual light on the eruption of a movement which was to ravage the whole country : the arrival en masse of Red Guards in Beijing, dazibao covering every available space on the city’s walls.
A sharp observer, the author also scrutinises embassy life, and that of foreigners, condemned to stay on the other side of the looking glass.
As a diplomat, Annie Le Cage visited many countries in Asia, America and Australia. She now lives in Paris.
Translated from the French by Anne Ferrato.
◼︎ Paris, Lacurne, 2013. In-8, 14,5 x 20,5 cm, broché, 268 pages.