After the Nightmare

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This husband-and-wife team collaborated to write SON OF THE REVOLUTION (1983), a widely praised memoir of Liang Heng’s youth during the Cultural Revolution era. In 1980-1981, even in the improved atmosphere after Mao Zedong’s death, the couple found that the Chinese socialist order tried to crush both Liang’s political efforts and their relationship, and they chose to leave China. The first book was embittered about Chinese life and politics while conveying a strong sense of dislocation as Liang and Shapiro adjusted to the United States and their new life together.

A scant four years later, the couple returned to China, with official blessings, to find abundant evidence of dramatic changes. In this fascinating and lively account of their visit, they pay tribute to the new energies unleashed by the policies of Deng Xiaoping. The authors have changed, too: Liang Heng is editor of a Chinese-language quarterly, THE INTELLECTUAL, and an American citizen. He and Shapiro have made a new life in America; their writing has become more mature and insightful.

Their impressions include both the positive and negative aspects of China. The couple visit his family, still shattered by the tensions of Chinese politics, find old friends in much altered circumstances, and relate the life stories of acquaintances. They emerge mildly hopeful, but conclude, “if you look deeper, even in this golden time of growth and relaxation of controls, you would still discover just below the surface many of the familiar failings, habits and distortions that had brought the nightmare upon us in the first place.”