Liu Zaifu is one of the most influential critics in the New Era after the Cultural Revolution. His works, such as On Literary Subjectivity (1985) and A Treatise of Character Composition (1986), inspired a generation of Chinese youth yearning for intellectual breakthroughs. After June 4, 1989, however, Liu's life took unexpected twists and turns. He exiled himself overseas, finally settling down in the United States. In the ensuing three decades, he has produced dozens of books, articles, and essays, some of which—including Farwell to Revolution (1995)—have become instant classics. However, in terms of personal engagement and reflective intensity, his forthcoming Five Autobiographical Accounts outstrips his other, prior work. This article seeks to describe Liu's intellectual and personal adventures in light of his autobiography. The year 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the June Fourth democracy movement, as well as Liu's self-exile; the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (1949); and most important, the centennial of the May Fourth movement (1919). Juxtaposed against one another, these dates compel us to reflect on the high hopes and bitter outcomes, grand projects and failed expectations, that informed China's century-long pursuit of modernity.

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