At 15, calling himself a Communist, Jan left his family, dropped out of school and began a peripatetic decades-long career as a writer, provocateur and public intellectual.
"I chose to write," he told United Press International in 1987. "It meant I had to break with school and that kind of education. That I knew from Strindberg and others. One had to make oneself impossible from the start, tear down bridges."
Mr. Myrdal began writing books in the mid-1950s, but none attracted much attention until he wrote "Report From a Chinese Village" (1965), which was based on a month that he spent in 1962 interviewing the people of Liu Ling, a tiny rural collection of man-made caves.
"In many ways, this is the book that everybody interested in China has been waiting for, a book describing what it feels like to be a peasant living through the Chinese Revolution," Martin Bernal, an expert on Chinese political history, wrote in The New York Review of Books. He praised the book for the candid stories told by the villagers.
Some of Mr. Myrdal's other foreign travel work and political commentary raised questions about his allegiances, or was seen as overly sympathetic to authoritarian rulers.
His "Report From a Chinese Village" and one of its sequels, "Return to a Chinese Village" (1984), were viewed as uncritical of the brutality of the Cultural Revolution.
In 1970, after visiting Albania, then still ruled by the dictator Enver Hoxha, Mr. Myrdal published "Albania Defiant." Writing in The New York Times Book Review, the journalist and author Anatole Shub wrote that the book conveyed "the Gospel according to Hoxha in basically uncritical, dogmatic Marxist terms" and showed "unlimited admiration" for the Albanian people and for Hoxha's brand of socialism.