Deadly quiet city True stories from Wuhan

Xuecun Murong, 1974-

Book - 2023

"From one of China's most celebrated-and silenced-literary authors, riveting portraits of eight Wuhan residents at the dawn of the pandemic"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 614.592414/Murong Checked In
2nd Floor 614.592414/Murong Checked In
New York : The New Press 2023.
Main Author
Xuecun Murong, 1974- (author)
Physical Description
xxvi, 297 pages ; 23 cm
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1. I am a doctor, but I'm also a source of infection
  • 2. You want me to live, and I want you to live, too
  • 3. I drive forwards, but the wind blows back
  • 4. A man who wants to pursue the light
  • 5. My soul is singing
  • 6. Just like boarding Noah's Ark
  • 7. The darkest moment
  • 8. I want a just explanation
  • Afterword
  • Editor's note
Review by Booklist Review

Fear--of a novel virus, an oppressive government, and death--is the common denominator in this tragic account constructed from interviews about the many hardships brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak and strictly enforced Chinese lockdowns at the start of the pandemic. Prominent Chinese writer Murong Xuecun portrays ordinary people living in hellish Wuhan, a place where Orwell's 1984 and Kafka's immense bureaucracies intersect. Pneumonia, paranoia, and a preoccupation with death exhaust (and sometimes annihilate) the city's people. A doctor becomes infected with COVID-19 when a patient coughs in his face, but he continues treating others. A devoted mother's daughter dies alone in the ICU. A dissident fights to illuminate the truth. A motorcycle taxi operator ferries folks illegally and dangerously during lockdown. A middle-class man who trusts the government contracts COVID-19. All Chinese citizens have a "personal QR code." When a highly contagious and deadly virus surge occurs in a totalitarian society, the chances for any sort of happy ending are pretty slim. These stories of suffering, propaganda, and abolition of personal freedoms will inform, sadden, and enrage readers.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist and opinion columnist Xuecun (Leave Me Alone) offers a harrowing snapshot of life in the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Noting that "many people died silently" during the 76-day lockdown imposed on Wuhan by President Xi Jinping on Jan. 23, 2020, Xuecun focuses on eight residents. These include Dr. Lin Qingchuan, who was assigned to an isolation station where admission and discharge decisions were made by Communist Party officials "who know nothing about medicine and have almost no contact with patients." Lin's account also reveals that the government deliberately used less accurate tests to generate lower infection rates and spread misinformation by promoting traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment. When Jin Feng, a 64-year-old cleaner at the Wuhan Central Hospital, got Covid-19, she couldn't get a bed in the hospital that employed her; though she eventually recovered, her husband died of the disease after local officials delayed his treatment because he couldn't show them a positive test result (the news had been delivered over the phone). Elsewhere, Xuecun profiles Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer turned citizen journalist who spent months reporting on the "violent isolation" in Wuhan before she was detained for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Throughout, Xuecun pulls no punches in blaming the Chinese government's "deliberate coverup and misleading information" for causing the pandemic. This is a masterful exposé. (Mar.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

On-the-ground reporting of the coronavirus tragedy that continues to unfold in Wuhan and the Chinese government's severe authoritative response. Rolling lockdowns are still ongoing in China, a harsh government imposition that Xuecun, nom de plume of Hao Qun, asserts has been a handy, efficient way for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party to control its people. Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, everyone has a QR code monitoring their health and legal status, allowing the government to physically remove citizens from their homes and jobs, herd them on buses, and lock them in isolation stations for long quarantine periods. The people are treated "like merchandise or livestock, destined for tightly guarded isolation centres--let's call them concentration camps." Xuecun came to Wuhan in April 2020, at the urging of his friend Clive Hamilton and despite the risk to himself, to chronicle stories by citizens, including that of Lin Qingchuan, one of countless doctors who contracted the virus while treating the patients in a community hospital with no medical or protection supplies. Lin offers a gruesome look inside the isolation stations and the power of neighborhood committees, and he reveals government attempts to cover up the severity of contagion and fudge the official numbers. In another heartbreaking case, Jin Feng, a retired hospital custodian, chronicles how no hospital would care for her and her husband, and he died in miserable conditions. Other stories include that of Li, one of Wuhan's "black motorcycle" operators who "transport people illegally"; Liu Xiaoxiao, a substitute teacher who reveals how the normally compliant middle class was shocked by the Jan. 23, 2020, government shutdown of the city; and Yang Min, bereft after the denial of care to her dying daughter. "She is critically ill," writes the author, "but the hospital can provide no treatment….Yang Min has no choice but to drag her febrile daughter to another hospital." A shocking, heart-rending report from the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in China. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.