Chou En-lai Critical Context - Essay

Jules Archer

Critical Context

Jules Archer is a prolific author of nonfiction. He has written more than sixty books, many of which are biographies. His subjects range from U.S. presidents to civil rights advocates to such communist leaders as Mao Tse-tung, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, and Joseph Stalin, as well as Italian fascist Benito Mussolini. Archer broke away from the tradition of presenting to young people only famous American figures with accomplishments and personalities worthy of emulation. Whoever his subject is, he does serious research to arrive at the whole truth and tells it honestly, the good and the bad alike. Chou En-lai is a typical example of Archer’s biographies and one of the best juvenile biographies that present an important worldview to young people.

Among biographies of Chou En-lai accessible to young people, Archer’s Chou En-lai stands out strikingly. Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler’s Chou En-lai (1986), with many illustrations and a brief text, is intended for younger readers and does not have a narrative as rich and lively as Archer’s. Ed Hammond’s Coming of Grace (1980), also liberally adorned with photographs, does not have a poignant style or a well-wrought characterization comparable to Archer’s biography. John Roots’s Chou: An Informal Biography of China’s Legendary Chou En-lai (1977) benefits from the author’s personal knowledge of Chou but to some extent also suffers from his closeness to the subject: His portrayal of Chou is not as balanced as Archer’s.