Iron and Silk

In This Review

Iron and Silk

By Mark Salzman
Random House, 1986
211 pp. $16.95
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An engrossing, beautifully written tale of a young American's two-year sojourn as an English teacher in Changsha, Hunan Province. Salzman, who majored in Chinese literature at Yale, joins a rapidly growing contingent of foreigners who are learning about the country first hand by studying or teaching there. One learns more than simply the day-to-day routine of life in a Chinese university; Salzman, as he bumps up against the bureaucracy in train stations, in post offices, in the Hunan Medical College Foreign Affairs Bureau, has much to tell of the "system" under Deng Xiaoping. His encounters-with students and fellow teachers, with local fishermen, wushu experts (including China's most famous wushu artist and national hero, Pan Qifu), bureaucrats and a small runaway child-are woven together to create a rich portrait of life in contemporary China that even the most seasoned sinologist will find engaging.

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