Time tells for Eileen Chang
The late author's two-volume autobiographical novels had no takers in 1963, but have now seen the light of day. Chitralekha Basu and Mei Jia report.
Eileen Chang's literary career has been a little like her life story - unpredictable and fraught with drama.
A hugely successful writer in her early 20s in Japanese-occupied Shanghai at the time of World War II - when she wrote some of her best works like The Golden Cangue (1943) and Love in a Fallen City (1944) - Chang failed to secure a publisher for her two-volume autobiographical novels completed in 1963.
She was a US citizen then, having lived mostly in New Hampshire since 1955. Her novels The Fall of the Pagoda and The Book of Change, following the journey of a Chinese girl from age 4 to about 20, from Tianjin to Shanghai to a Hong Kong under siege in 1941, were written in English. But there were no takers for these stories in 1960s United States.
"The publishers here seem to agree that the characters in those two novels are too unpleasant, even that the poor are no better," Chang is quoted as saying in World Authors 1950-1970, A Companion Volume to 20th Century Authors (1975). "Here I came against the curious literary convention treating the Chinese as a nation of Confucian philosophers spouting aphorisms, an anomaly in modern literature."
See Kaixin's - Eileen Chang 张爱玲