In 2001, to visit his sick father, the exiled poet Bei Dao returned to his homeland for the first time in over twenty years. The city of his birth was totally unrecognizable. “My city that once was had vanished,” he writes: “I was a foreigner in my hometown.” The shock of this experience released a flood of memories and emotions that sparked City Gate, Open Up.
In this lyrical autobiography of growing up—from the birth of the People’s Republic, through the chaotic years of the Great Leap Forward, and on into the Cultural Revolution—Bei Dao uses his extraordinary gifts as a poet and storyteller to create another Beijing, a beautiful memory palace of endless alleyways and corridors, where personal narrative mixes with the momentous history he lived through. At the center of the book are his parents and siblings, and their everyday life together through famine and festival. City Gate, Open Up is told in an episodic, fluid style that moves back and forth through the poet’s childhood, recreating the smells and sounds, the laughter and the danger, of a boy’s coming of age during a time of enormous change and upheaval.published April 25th, 2017