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 modern Chinese novelists and essayists of the twentieth century. First published in 1944, and just 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 life as a writer and woman in wartime Shanghai and Hong Kong. With her vibrant yet meditative style and her sly, sophisticated humor, Chang writes of friends, colleagues, and teachers turned soldiers or wartime volunteers, and of her own experiences as a part-time nurse. She also turns her thoughts to Chinese cinema, the aims of the writer, Peking Opera, Shanghainese food, culture, and fashion, all the while upending prevalent attitudes toward women and painting the self-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. The book includes illustrations by the author.
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.
Nicole Huang is a professor at the University of Hong Kong. Her recent work engages visual and auditory culture of contemporary China, with a forthcoming book called Late Mao Soundscapes: Auditory Culture and Daily Practice of 1970s China.
"Chang's constant, vivid presence in these essays allows the reader to step wholly into her mind—a collage of the universal and the personal, the minute and the infinite." —Daljinder Johal, Asymptote Journal
“One of the most anticipated books of 2023.” —The Millions
“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
“Written on Water showcases why . . . Eileen Chang still enjoys an enormous popularity among readers, both in China and overseas. Chang’s stylized depictions of Chinese manners and morals, her witty inquiry into urban trivia, and her ‘celebration’ of historical contingency are a tableau vivant of modern Chinese lives at their most complex and fascinating.” —David Der-Wei Wang
“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
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