Og så alligevel. Første del af bogen er en virkelig fin gennemgang og opsummering af de sidste 30 års forskning om »Det Store Spring Fremad,« hvor Dikotter også inddrager noget af det nyeste fra de seneste ti års kinesiske debat og folk som Yu Xiguang og Cao Shuji.
Det er der hårdt brug for. For »Det Store Spring Fremad« er i høj grad stadig ukendt i Vesten, som Xujun Eberlein skriver her i Los Angeles Review of Books:
In July 2011, Frank Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine won the BBC’s Samuel Johnson Prize, one of Europe’s best known and most lucrative awards for a work of nonfiction. One of the judges, Brenda Maddox, explained to the Guardian why the book impressed her so much: “Why didn’t I know about this? We feel we know who the villains of the 20th century are — Stalin and Hitler. But here, fully 50 years after the event, is something we did not know about.”
That reaction highlights both the main contribution and main limitation of Dikötter’s book. Though there have been many books and articles published on the same subject — in English, Chinese, and I’m sure other languages — apparently Dikötter’s is the one that brought awareness to at least one more Westerner ignorant of the catastrophe. On the other hand, Dikötter’s attempt to draw parallels between the Mao-era famine — that swept over the entirety of mainland China from 1959 to 1961 and killed tens of millions — and the Holocaust and the Soviet Gulag is, at best, an oversimplification that hinders understanding. To borrow what the discerning Asia scholar Ian Buruma once said on a different subject: “To distinguish between atrocities does not diminish the horror, but without clarity on these matters history recedes into myth and becomes a form of propaganda.”
I sin bog bruger Dikotter også Yang Jisheng og hans sensationelle bog »Gravsten«, der udkom i 2008. Det er nok den hidtil grundigste gennemgang af »Det Store Spring Fremad,« og i Xujun Eberleins anmeldelse stilles Yang og Dikotters to bøger op over for hinanden. Læs det hele. Men her får du overskriften på, hvorfor Dikotters bog bliver mere problematisk, når han bevæger sig ind på Mao Zedong og partiets top:
“Understanding the complexity of human behavior in times of catastrophe is one of the aims of the book,” Dikötter states, and he does a good job fulfilling that goal in terms of ordinary people. But when it comes to the behavior of Mao and his colleagues, he has a tendency for simplification and caricature. The Mao under his pen is simply one of history’s most sadistic tyrants; consideration is not given to the complexity of his behavior. The reader gets the impression that Mao knew about the famine all along, but either deliberately let people starve, or was indifferent to their fate. Dikötter’s indignation toward Mao is understandable, but this representation is neither factual nor insightful.
:: Som der står på propagandaplakaten, så vil “produktions entusiasmen” stige, hvis spisesalene er velfungerende. Plakaten er fra denne side på den glimrende Chinese Posters’ tema om »Det Store Spring Fremad.«