Peking StoryThe Last Days of Old China
by David Kidd
For two years before and after the 1948 Communist Revolution, David Kidd lived in Peking, where he married the daughter of an aristocratic Chinese family. “I used to hope,” he writes, “that some bright young scholar on a research grant would write about us and our Chinese friends before it was too late and we were all dead and gone, folding into the darkness the wonder that had been our lives.” Here Kidd himself brings that wonder to life.
Kidd's pieces have been a double illumination. Their intimate domestic lanterns shed light on the dark side of the moon and, exotic and informational interest aside, glow in their own skins, as art. They are simple, graceful, comic, mournful miniatures of an ominous catastrophe, the unprecedently swift death of a uniquely ancient civilization.
— John Updike
In the reader's eye, Kidd's story wavers between fact and fiction. It seems too good to be true, like the perfectly woven family sagas common to the great Chinese novels and Victorian fiction. But the climax, the unwritten final chapter of Peking Story, is firmly written in fact: the crumbling of an empire 4000 years old. To achieve this effect in less than 200 pages is astounding.
— Alberto Manguel
Kidd paints indelible sketches of an aspect of Chinese life gone forever. A finely wrought account.
Peking Story is a poignantly written requiem for Old Peking—the city whose death is symbolic of the death of China's ancient culture and civilization.
— Nien Cheng, The New York Times Book Review
For Americans who travel to Beijing or who are interested in the city as it was before the revolution, this book will give a new dimension to their understanding and enjoyment.
— New York Times New & Notable Paperback
...[M]y favorite discovery [in the NYRB Classics collection for 2003] was Peking Story by the late David Kidd....In one small episode involving an incense brazier that has never been allowed to cool since it came off the forge, 600 years before, Kidd captured all the pathos of the fall of an ancient, sophisticated, unjust regime.
— Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun