F: Hu Feng’s Prison Years
Author: Mei Zhi
Translator: Gregor Benton
Original language: Chinese
Published by: Verso, 2013
Hu Feng, the ‘counter-revolutionary’ leader of a banned literary school, spent 25 years in the Chinese Communist Party’s prison system. But back in the Party’s early days, he was one of its best known literary theoreticians and critics—at least until factional infighting, and his short fuse, made him persona non grata among the establishment.
His wife, Mei Zhi, shared his incarceration for many years. F is her account of that time, beginning ten years after her and Hu Feng’s initial arrest. She herself was eventually released, after which she navigated the party’s Byzantine prison bureaucracy searching for his whereabouts. Having finally found him, she voluntarily returned to gaol to care for him in his rage and suffering, watching his descent into madness as the excesses of the Cultural Revolution took their toll.
Both an intimate portrait of Mei Zhi’s life with Hu Feng and a stark account of the prison system and life under Mao, F is at once beautiful and harrowing.