BOOK CLUB & DOCUMENTARY: The Man Who Stayed Behind by Sidney Rittenberg and Amanda Bennett
RAS Book Club Double Feature
Sidney Rittenberg: Life and Times of the “Man Who Stayed Behind”
Entrance: RMB 50 (RAS members), RMB 70 (non-members)
The Man Who Stayed Behind is the remarkable account of Sidney Rittenberg, an American who was sent to China by the U.S. military in the 1940s. A student activist and labor organizer who was fluent in Chinese, Rittenberg became caught up in the turbulence that engulfed China and remained there until the late 1970s. (Continued next page)Even with access to China’s highest leaders as an American communist, however, he was twice imprisoned for a total of 16 years.
Both a memoir and a documentary history of the Chinese revolution from 1949 through the Cultural Revolution, The Man Who Stayed Behind provides a human perspective on China’s efforts to build a new society. Critical of both his own mistakes and those of the Communist leadership, Rittenberg nevertheless gives an even-handed account of a country that is now free of internal war for the first time in a hundred years.
Sidney Rittenberg arrived in China as a GI China language expert at the end of World War II. Discharged there he joined the Chinese Communist Party and was an active participant in the Chinese Communist revolution and its aftermath. An intimate of the Party’s leadership including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai he gained prominence at the Broadcast Administration, one of the most important agencies of government. But in the convulsions of a giant country constantly reinventing itself, he twice ran afoul of the leadership and served a total of 16 years in solitary confinement. He returned to the United States in 1980.
Over a 5-year period, award-winning CBS journalist and China specialist, Irv Drasmin, interviewed Rittenberg to produce a compelling, complex and unique understanding of the 20th Century’s biggest revolution. From Sid first meeting Mao in the caves of Yan ‘an to his becoming famous and powerful during the Cultural Revolution, to his battling insanity in solitary, his journey and his profound insight illuminate a much greater history- a history few Chinese are aware of, let alone many Americans, told by an American who was there.