China Witness, By Xinran

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Today China speaks to the world, louder and in more mixed voices than ever before. But what of the "silent generation" of elders whose burden of loss and regret makes them all-but inaudible ghosts at the boom-time feast?

For the latest of her extraordinary oral-history projects, Xinran mounted in-depth interviews with 20 survivors of revolution and upheaval.

Ranging in age from their seventies to 97, her walking treasure-troves of once-taboo memories include a former bandit along the Silk Road, a veteran of the Communists' Long March, a relative of the "Double-Gun Woman" whose feats echoed through Maoist myth, and a "news singer" from a backwater who brought the wider world to local tea-houses.

Each life-story is engrossing, as the witnesses reveal the awesome resilience that carried them over endless "chaos and strife".