1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

Crown. Oct. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780553419467. $32. MEMOIR
Artist Ai Weiwei has penned an engrossing memoir that takes readers back and forth through time as he examines the life and legacy of his father, the renowned poet Ai Qing, as well as the evolution of his own political and artistic sensibilities, all in the shadow of the tremendous upheaval in China over the past century. The first half of the book is an accounting of the experiences of Ai Qing during Mao’s rise and fall in China; the poet was alternately celebrated and denounced, working with the Chinese Communist Party at one point, and being exiled to a remote re-education camp at another. Ai Weiwei then turns his lens on his own young adulthood and his development as an artist. He draws contrasts between his own and his father’s experiences of the Chinese State, travel, incarceration, immigration, and repatriation. The memoir is illustrated with black-and-white reproductions of Ai’s artworks that reflect on people and place and evoke raw emotion.
VERDICT Ai creates a vivid portrait of two generations grappling with their place in the Chinese cultural and political landscape, and gives readers a glimpse of his approach to art and the creative process. Highly recommended for those interested in art, memoir, politics, and history.
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