Written on Water (Paperback)
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Now back in print, these witty, insightful ssays on fashion, cinema, wartime, and everyday life demonstrate why Eileen Chang was and is a major icon of twentieth-century Chinese literature.
Eileen Chang is one of the most celebrated and influential modern Chinese novelists and cultural critics of the twentieth century.
First published in 1945 and as beloved as her fiction in the Chinese-speaking world, Written on Water collects Chang’s reflections on art, literature, war, urban culture, and her own life as a writer and woman, set amid the sights and sounds of wartime Shanghai and Hong Kong.
In a style at once meditative and vibrant, Chang writes of friends, colleagues, and teachers turned soldiers or wartime volunteers, and of her own experiences as a part-time nurse. She also reflects on Chinese cinema, the aims of the writer, and the popularity of the Peking Opera.
Chang engages the reader with her sly and sophisticated humor, conversational voice, and intense fascination with the subtleties of everyday life. In her examination of Shanghai food, culture, and fashions, she not only reveals but also upends prevalent attitudes toward women, presenting a portrait of a daring and cosmopolitan woman bent on questioning pieties and enjoying the pleasures of modernity, even as the world convulses in war and a revolution looms.
About the Author
Eileen Chang (1920–1995) was a Chinese writer, born into an aristocratic family in Shanghai. She studied literature at the University of Hong Kong until the Japanese attack on the city in 1941 forced her to return to occupied Shanghai, where she was able to publish the stories and essays—collected in two volumes, Romances and Written on Water—that soon made her a literary star. After moving to the United States in the 1950s, Chang wrote the novels Naked Earth (available from NYRB Classics) and The Rice Sprout Song, as well as essays and stories in Chinese and scripts for Hong Kong films. She is also the author of the NYRB Classics Love in a Fallen City and Little Reunions.
Andrew F. Jones is a literary translator and professor of Chinese at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of three books on modern Chinese music and was a recent Guggenheim fellow.
“Original, memorable and unlike anything else that has come from the era. A fine contribution to Chinese letters in translation.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Daily life, human interactions, and fashion are—particularly for 1940s China—considered female topics, and if Eileen Chang has any political dreams, they are for a space in which women’s problems can be accepted and considered.” —Rain Taxi Review
“Before Joan Didion, there was Eileen Chang. A slender, dramatic woman with a taste for livid details and feverish colors, Chang combined Didion’s glamor and sensibility with the terrific wit of Evelyn Waugh. She could, with a single phrase, take you hostage.” —Jamie Fisher, The Millions
“China’s Virginia Woolf.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Her writing . . . is cinematically crisp, and phantasmagorical. . . . She had the lunatic sensibilities of Marc Chagall, married to a Henri Matisse-like elegance.” —Ilaria Maria Sala, The Wall Street Journal
“As Chang is gaining a growing number of readers in different languages, her work is being positioned where it always belonged, next to other world classics.” —Robert McG. Thomas, The New York Times