Rosie Boycott interviews Jung Chang

Jung Chang is in Hay 21 years after the publication of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. She opened the session dramatically by producing her grandmother’s shoe, evidence of the cruel practice of foot binding.

The book is the story of the women from three generations of her own family. Her grandmother was required as a young woman to become concubine to a warlord to whom she bore a child, Jung Chang’s mother. She later married a senior officer in the communist party.

Jung Chang herself was born in 1952 an grew up under Mao as a privileged child of a senior party official. Eventually her parents fell victim to the cultural revolution, her father was excited and does prematurely and her mother was paraded in the streets before also being exiled.

The writer became deeply disenchanted with Chinese communism and the Mao leadership and came to Britain in 1978. She was one of the first 14 people to come to the UK to study and the first from the 90 million strong Szechuan province. She gained a doctorate from York University in 1982.

Following the success of Wild Swans Jung Chang spent 12 years with her husband Jon Halliday researching a biography of Mao. She is deeply critical of Mao and accused him of being knowingly causing mass starvation amongst the Chinese population by selling food to buy weapons and military technology. Mao Zedong: The Untold Story was published in 2005.

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Daniel Pick – The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind

Daniel Pick’s study of ‘Hitler, Hess and the Analysts’ prompted sufficient interest to merit a move from the Wales Stage to the headline Barclays Pavillion. It was a little strange to listen to an exploration of the nazi mind in the same venue where Rob Brydon had been making laughter flow the evening before.

Freudian analysis was at the core of this deconstruction of nazi thought. The concept of the super ego for example sits comfortably with the idea of a mind that embraces nazism. It is clear from first hand accounts that Hess was a damaged and in many ways weak and impressionable man.

Daniel Pick is Professor of History at Birkbeck at the University of London and this was an academic session. It was a history rather than a psychological investigation and left me better informed about the character of Rudolph Hess but little nearer to understanding the triggers that turned his mind to nazi ideology.