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July 28, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

BLOOD RED SUNSET: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Ma Bo, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt (Penguin: $12.95, 371 pp.). In 1968, Ma Bo, a fervent Red Guard, came to Inner Mongolia to transform the steppes into farmland. Despite his fanatic devotion to "Mao Tse-tung Thought," he was labeled a politically unsound reactionary by corrupt officials. In his harsh, affecting autobiography, Bo recounts the years he spent fighting to clear his name, despite humiliation, abuse and isolation. The effort to reclaim the Mongolian steppe proved disastrous: Once-productive ranges were reduced to deserts. Recalling the ruined land and ruined lives, Bo concludes, "There's consolation in the knowledge that we too suffered and that we made horrible sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice for some. Tens of thousands of lovely flowers bloomed and died here, silent and unnoticed."

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