World View: Remembering the Cultural Revolution

This week’s World View podcast also discusses Austria’s recent election and developments in Israel

The Chinese Communist Party would rather forget Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which resulted in chaos and violence and left  one million people - perhaps many more - dead.

Beijing-based journalist Didi Kirsten Tatlow has been collecting the stories of some of the people affected by the events of 50 years ago. Two such stories stand out for her.

One is the testimony of a woman who was five when her parents disappeared, targetted for being intellectuals.

Her younger sibling was then taken out of the city by a nanny, leaving her alone.


The little girl travelled across the city seeking her parents, carrying a stool to get a better vantage point.

After falling from the stool, she broke her finger - an injury that still hurts her to this day.

Another story concerns a then-wealthy family that were persecuted by Zedong’s fanatical Red Guards.

A prized sable coat was confiscated by Mao's supporters. In the family lore, the sable coat is still believed to be in the possession of the family who took it from them.

Although an insignificant detail of such a destructive period, Didi believes it is symbolic of the persistance of the traumatic memory of the Cultural Revolution.

On this week’s World View podcast we speak with Didi about the legacy of the Revolution and the intergenerational trauma, unacknowledged by the Communist Party, that lingers 50 years on.

Also on the podcast, Mark Weiss reports from Jerusalem, where the appointment of a controversial politician as defence minister marks a shift to the right for Binyamin Netanyahu, against a background of increasing tensions between the government and the army.

And Vienna-based journalist Eric Frey reports from Austria, where the narrowest of defeats for Norbert Hofer in the presidential election may only be a bump in the road for the far-right Freedom Party in its search for power.

Get World View for free every week by subscribing in iTunes. It can be listened to and downloaded via Soundcloud. Android users can access the podcast via Stitcher.You can also find the latest episodes on The Irish Times app.

Declan Conlon

Declan Conlon

Declan Conlon is head of audio at The Irish Times