City Gate, Open Up

(Author) (Translator)
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Product Details

New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
5.2 X 1.0 X 7.9 inches | 0.75 pounds
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About the Author

Bei Dao, born in Beijing in 1949, has traveled and lectured around the world. He has received numerous international awards for his poetry, and is an honorary member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Bei Dao, now a U.S. citizen, is currently Professor of Humanities in the Center for East Asian Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Jeffrey Yang is the author of the poetry books Vanishing-Line and An Aquarium. He is the translator of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo's June Fourth Elegies and Su Shi's East Slope, and the editor of Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems from New Directions. He works as an editor at New Directions Publishing and New York Review Books.


Bei Dao uses words as if he were fighting for his life with them. He has found a way to speak for all of us.--Jonathan Spence
With precise lyricism, Bei Dao resurrects a vanished city and time in China, creating a rich literary-cum-historical record of the world's greatest national transformation. But this tender memoir by a great poet also describes the poignant longings, small joys and sorrows of all of us who grew up in places called 'underdeveloped.'--Pankaj Mishra
Bei Dao's writing provides ample evidence of the written word's potential to effect political change.... Few living writers possess a voice as elegant.--Andrew Ervin
The soul of post-Mao poetry, Bei Dao reveals in this intimate, lyrical memoir a China that still haunts us with its brutal past and aching humanity. Like Balzac's Paris, Dickens' London, and Pushkin's St. Petersburg, Bei Dao's Beijing is a microcosm caught in a time warp, forever titillating our imagination.--Yunte Huang, Editor of The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature
A nuanced account of China in the era of the Cultural Revolution, seen through one young man's eyes. Since that young man became a poet, it is also beautifully textured, full of the sounds, sights, and scents of a Beijing that is no more.
What a fine book! Funny, astute, touching, subtle, personal, widely human.--Gary Snyder
The language of Bei Dao's memoir, seamlessly translated by fellow poet Yang, is elegantly simple and guilelessly accessible....Winter white cabbage, vinyl records, pet rabbits, banned books, and first and last "I love yous" provide intimate glimpses that "open up" to reveal extraordinary, immediate testimony of challenges survived in a life intensely lived.--Terry Hong"City Gate, Open Up" (03/31/2017)
City Gate, Open Up is an ocean of recollections. Bei Dao's impressionistic account of his childhood and youth in Beijing, is unlike any book he has ever written. He builds an imaginative city that readers can actually inhabit, much like his early poetry creates concepts worth living for. -- Ratik Asokan, Caravan Magazine--Ratik Asokan"Where Brightness Ends" (06/01/2017)
In 18 essays, crafted with poetic precision and enriched by Jeffrey Yang's assiduous translation, Bei Dao depicts a cast of memorable characters with humor and insight: a tenacious family nanny always on the lookout for revolutionary opportunities; a talented schoolmate who sneaked across the border to Burma to join guerrilla forces; and the author's father, a former government propaganda official and a moody authoritarian at home... [These] essays are clear and intimate, like the black-and-white snapshots scattered through the text. While the descriptive opulence of his prose evokes Beijing's sights, sounds and smells, it can be overwhelming at times... Poignant.--Wenguang Huang"A Poet Who Survived Mao" (05/09/2017)
Written with honesty, conscience and courage, this is a powerful account that merges personal memories with the collective history in the making of modern China, and inspires the reader to consider the many important social and political concerns in Chinese society that still remain today.
City Gate, Open Up holds a vertiginous, intimate kaleidoscope of vignettes and portraits, in which a changing city, family, community, and country are presented as quick life-drawings, sketched from within. The drama of famine becomes a few candies in the mouths of half-starved boys scouring fields for weeds; the Cultural Revolution, an attic-hidden library of pre-war movie magazines, anatomy, and fiction carried into a hutong courtyard's fire for burning. Soon after, the author builds a traveling bookcase backpack, holding only the works of Mao. One local official's suicide abuts his successor's ferocious skill at ping pong; a son discovers, as inner cultural inheritance, his father's "little tyrant," then struggles for tenderness as time rearranges their relative power. From its haunting opening description of Beijing's early light bulbs, their rarity and weakness, this book's jump-cuts of memory move backward and forward in time. These pages illuminate, obliquely and acutely, the story of a now-famous dissident poet's rebellious emergence and survival, within the story of the intelligentsia's larger harrowing amid the Chinese Revolution's whiplash unfoldings.--Jane Hirshfield