Archer’s Chou En-lai is not a mere chronicle of this leader’s historical accomplishments. It is a remarkable portrait of Chou as a man of brilliant wit, stern integrity, radiant exuberance, charming grace, extraordinary courage, and composure. With clarity, sensitivity, and momentum, Archer delineates these qualities, which made Chou a charismatic leader. To create a three-dimensional character, he portrays Chou’s personality not only in his political life but in his personal life as well, especially his love for and marriage with Teng Ying-chao. Archer not only directly narrates Chou’s actions and reactions at critical moments but also includes dramatic scenes that reveal his character, such as his meeting during the Sian Incident with Chiang Kai-shek, who put an $80,000 bounty on his head, or his encounter at a Geneva conference with U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles, who said that he expected to meet Chou privately only if their automobiles collided. Observations of Chou by his admirers, detractors, and adversaries are also incorporated into the narrative in order to shed light on his character from different angles. Thanks to Archer’s skillful characterization, the reader can visualize Chou’s image even without the aid of photographs or other illustrations.
Archer employs a dispassionate tone, but he is not apathetic. In writing the biography, he entered into a certain relationship with his subject and, according to noted...
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