An indelible exploration of the Cultural Revolution and how it shapes China today, Red Memory uncovers forty years of silence through the rarely heard stories of individuals who lived through Mao's decade of madness.
A 13-year-old Red Guard revels in the great adventure, and struggles with her doubts. A silenced composer, facing death, determines to capture the turmoil.
An idealistic student becomes the 'corpse master'.
More than fifty years on, the Cultural Revolution's scar runs through the heart of Chinese society, and through the souls of its citizens. Stationed in Beijing for the Guardian, Tania Branigan came to realise that this brutal and turbulent decade continues to propel and shape China to this day. Yet official suppression and personal trauma have conspired in national amnesia: it exists, for the most part, as an absence.
Red Memory explores the stories of those who are driven to confront the era, fearing or yearning its return. What happens to a society when you can no longer trust those closest to you? What happens to the present when the past is buried, exploited or redrawn? And how do you live with yourself when the worst is over?
Winner of the Cundill History Prize 2023
Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2023
Shortlisted for the British Academy Prize for Non-Fiction 2023.