Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Brothers

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Brothers

A Novel

by Yu Hua

Brothers by Yu Hua
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2010, 656 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

The Great Leap Forward
China's Cultural Revolution, which Chairman Mao Zedong formally announced in 1966, was a reaction to his earlier attempt, known as "The Great Leap Forward", to increase China's economic base by moving the country away from its agrarian economy to an industrialized one using the massive supplies of cheap humans rather than expensive imported machines.  The Second Five Year Plan, better known as "The Great Leap Forward", was unveiled by Mao in 1958.  As a first step, collectives across the countryside were merged into even larger "people's communes" so that by the end of 1958 approximately 25,000 communes with an average of 5,000 households had been set up. 

A cornerstone of "The Great Leap Forward" was the creation of small backyard steel furnaces in every commune, with ridiculously ambitious production targets. Feeding and stoking the furnaces took laborers and equipment from the fields which, in combination with poor weather conditions, resulted in a dramatic decrease in food production. At the same time, the people responsible for producing the steel had little instruction and the furnaces were not of the standard needed to produce a quality product.  Because of this, countless millions of serviceable household and farm tools were converted into low quality pig iron while famine spread across much of the country.  The result was death by starvation for between 20 and 43 million Chinese (estimates vary widely).

Communist Party members laid the blame on the Party leadership, and Mao resigned as the State Chairman of the People's Republic of China (although he retained his position as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party). The new chairman, Liu Shaoqi, insisted that the country must adopt more Western means of developing the economy, relying on education and technical expertise, and a power struggle ensued between the two factions of the Communist party.

The Cultural Revolution
In early 1963, Mao and his followers began a propaganda campaign in an attempt to create an anti-intellectual environment, and thus weaken his political opponents. Mao's philosophies appealed particularly to China's youth, and grass-roots student groups supporting his policies proliferated across the country, eventually becoming known as the Red Guards.

Mao announced the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" on August 8, 1966. He elevated the Red Guards to a national movement, and urged its members to "struggle against and crush those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road, to criticize and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois academic authorities." The Red Guards subsequently began their own education campaign, traveling to outlying villages to spread Mao's teachings. As their numbers grew, so did their power.

The more than 11 million Red Guards became increasingly violent in their zeal to promote the Cultural Revolution. Teachers and others in academic fields bore the brunt of the anti-intellectual campaign, although those with any type of perceived bourgeois connection were also attacked, as were people affiliated with religious institutions. Thousands of innocent people were relocated, tortured, beaten and killed. Religious and academic buildings were looted and destroyed. Almost all books were burned and, for a year, all schools were closed throughout China.

Party members appealed to Mao to rein in the Red Guards, but Mao approved of their actions and refused to interfere. Mao forbade the police to hinder the Red Guards, and any who tried to keep the Red Guards from acting were labeled counter-revolutionaries. As the violence spiraled out of control, Mao and his followers used the atmosphere of chaos to purge the Party of political enemies. The Red Guards were given control of the army and, again, those who objected were denounced and purged.

By 1969 Mao had consolidated his power. The "Down to the Countryside Movement" was announced, which relocated young city "intellectuals" (pretty much all urban students, of middle school age or older, who were viewed by authorities as 'privileged') to the countryside in order to learn from the workers and farmers. The Red Guards were dismantled and Mao declared the Cultural Revolution over, although political and social turmoil continued until his death in 1976.

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in February 2009, and has been updated for the January 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -