January 21, 2013
A 156-year-old historical book on the French Revolution has become a surprise hit in China, where readers have found “links” in the subject matter to their own country’s realities.
“The Old Regime and the French Revolution,” written by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville around 1856, has become a bestseller, according to the Commercial Press, which first published the book’s Chinese translation in 1992.
On Monday, a Commercial Press employee, who did not want to be named, told Xinhua that since 1992, the book has been reprinted 10 times, with print runs of at least 3,000 copies on each occasion.
The staff member said that the work has become popular in the last few months but refused to unveil specific numbers concerning circulation.
Due to its popularity, new editions of the book came on the market this month from publishing houses Guangming Daily Press and Jiuzhou Press, helping increase sales.
At Amazon.cn, a leading online bookstore in China, the book is labelled “popular.”
At Douban.com, an online society mostly for young Chinese people to talk about books, music and films, some 2,900 netizens said they had read it or are reading the publication. A further 7,800 expressed their interest in reading it.
The book has been rated by 1,685 Douban readers and received an average score of 9.1 out of 10 points.
Around 167,000 entries about the book can be found on Sina Weibo, the country’s popular social network.
Having written the book half a century after the French Revolution, Tocqueville analyzed society and its governance before the revolution and what caused it.
Chinese readers have drawn a parallel between the subject of “The Old Regime and the French Revolution” and China’s realities today.
Friday’s overseas edition of the People’s Daily published a book review from Zhang Guangzhao, who said the publication is not only an academic piece but also attracts a wider readership.
Zhang suggested that China, facing challenges in its modernization drive and social transformation, might draw lessons from the French Revolution.
Economist Hua Sheng recommended the book on his microblog at Sina Weibo, saying that the country should be ready for possible ups and downs in its transformation.