Prophecy Fire

Denzel Washington, NYTimes

Denzel Washington, NYTimes.

Paul Theroux traveled in China in 1986 and 1987 for his book “Riding the Iron Rooster” published in 1988. He described police assaults on pro-democracy demonstrators that he witnessed. The book was dismissed by some reviewers “as alarmist and Sinophobic.” The Tiananment Square massacre in 1989 made it seem prescient. “… All I had done as a traveler was record what I saw: Writing the truth is prophetic,” Theroux adds in his letter to the NYTimes. He concludes as follows:

I have mentioned this in lectures I have given, in many Western cities as well as in Hong Kong, and each time I raise the subject, uttering the words “Tiananmen Square,” two or three Chinese people — sometimes more — rise and rush to the exits, as if I’d yelled “fire.”

The first time it occurred I was puzzled. When it continued to happen, I was told that all Chinese people connected to the government — which includes business people and academics — are under instructions to respond to any mention of the massacre by turning their backs on the speaker and fleeing the room.
(“Paul Theroux: Truth and Tiananmen [Letter],” NYTimes, 6-7-19)

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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