—Terry Hong, Booklist
Winter white cabbage, vinyl records, pet rabbits, banned books, and first and last “I love yous” provide intimate glimpses that “open up” to reveal extraordinary, immediate testimony of challenges survived in a life intensely lived.
—Ratik Asokan, Caravan Magazine
City Gate, Open Up is an ocean of recollections. Bei Dao’s impressionistic account of his childhood and youth in Beijing, is unlike any book he has ever written.
A nuanced account of China in the era of the Cultural Revolution, seen through one young man’s eyes. Since that young man became a poet, it is also beautifully textured, full of the sounds, sights, and scents of a Beijing that is no more.
City Gate, Open Up holds a vertiginous, intimate kaleidoscope of vignettes and portraits, in which a changing city, family, community, and country are presented as quick life-drawings, sketched from within. The drama of famine becomes a few candies in the mouths of half-starved boys scouring fields for weeds; the Cultural Revolution, an attic-hidden library of pre-war movie magazines, anatomy, and fiction carried into a hutong courtyard’s fire for burning. Soon after, the author builds a traveling bookcase backpack, holding only the works of Mao. One local official’s suicide abuts his successor’s ferocious skill at ping pong; a son discovers, as inner cultural inheritance, his father’s “little tyrant,” then struggles for tenderness as time rearranges their relative power. From its haunting opening description of Beijing’s early light bulbs, their rarity and weakness, this book’s jump-cuts of memory move backward and forward in time. These pages illuminate, obliquely and acutely, the story of a now-famous dissident poet’s rebellious emergence and survival, within the story of the intelligentsia’s larger harrowing amid the Chinese Revolution’s whiplash unfoldings.
—Yunte Huang, Editor of The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature
The soul of post-Mao poetry, Bei Dao reveals in this intimate, lyrical memoir a China that still haunts us with its brutal past and aching humanity. Like Balzac’s Paris, Dickens’ London, and Pushkin’s St. Petersburg, Bei Dao’s Beijing is a microcosm caught in a time warp, forever titillating our imagination.
Intense, elegant and impressionistic.
—The Harvard Review
Bei Dao’s poetry translates well in its bold imagery and implicit and oblique politics, using nature in a symbolism of indirection that is as subtle as it is apparent.
—Jonathan Spence, The New York Times Book Review
[Bei Dao] was obliged to create a new poetic idiom that was simultaneously a protective camouflage and an appropriate vehicle for ‘unreality’.
—Robert Hass, Washington Post Book World
A Bei Dao poem feels as if it follows the pulse of consciousness.