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City Gate, Open Up by Bei Dao

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City Gate, Open Up is the lyrical autobiography of China's legendary poet Bei Dao. Exiled from Beijing in the wake of the 1989 Tianamen Square protests, Bei Dao returned to his homeland in 2001 for the first time in over twenty years. The city of his youth had vanished: ‘I was a foreigner in my hometown,’ he writes. The shock of this experience released a flood of memories and emotions contained in City Gate, Open Up.

The poet recalls the Beijing of his youth, from the birth of the People’s Republic, through the chaotic years of the Great Leap Forward, and on into the Cultural Revolution. At the centre of the book are his parents and siblings and their everyday life together through famine and festival. Bei Dao’s autobiography is a memory palace of endless alleyways and corridors, where personal narrative mixes with the momentous history he lived through.

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