Written on Water

Written on Water


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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 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 own life as a writer and woman, set amidst 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 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 lie. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681375762
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 11/09/2021
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,002,741
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

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 (1944) and Written on Water (1945)—that soon made her a literary star. After moving to the United States in the 1950s, Chang wrote the novels Naked Earth and The Rice Sprout Song, as well as essays and stories in Chinese and scripts for Hong Kong films. Eileen Chang wrote fiction and essays in both her native Chinese and in her own eclectic style of English. She is also the author of the NYRB Classic Love in a Fallen City. She died in Los Angeles.

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction, by Nicole Huang1. A Childish Discourse2. Writing of Oneís Own3. Notes on Apartment Life4. Bugle Music from the Night Barracks5. ìWhat Is Essential Is That Names Be Rightî6. From the Ashes7. Shanghainese, After All8. Seeing with the Streets9. A Chronicle of Changing Clothes10. Love11. Speaking of Women12. By the Light of the Silver Lantern13. Letís Go! Letís Go Upstairs14. Schooling at the Silver Palace15. Peking Opera Through Foreign Eyes16. On Carrots17. The Sayings of Yanying18. Unpublished Manuscripts19. What Are We to Write?20. Making People21. Beating People22. Poetry and Nonsense23. With the Women on the Tram24. Whispers25. Unforgettable Paintings26. Under an Umbrella27. On Dance28. On Painting29. On the Second Edition of Romances30. On Music31. Epilogue: Days and Nights of China

Columbia University Press

What People are Saying About This

David Der-wei Wang

Eileen Chang is no doubt the most talented woman writer in 20th century China. Written on Water showcases why, more than half a century after she first won fame in Shanghai, Chang still enjoys an enormous popularity among readers, both in China and overseas. Eileen 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, Harvard University, author The Monster That Is History: History, Violence, and Fictional Writing in Twentieth-Century China

Theodore Huters

This book of essays -- the first to offer a complete rendering of Eileen Chang's 1945 legendary collection, Written on Water -- opens a whole new arena of insight onto the complicated and cosmopolitan world of Shanghai and Hong Kong in the war years of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Chang's startling original observations, phrased in a powerfully evocative language, at once bring to life a long-forgotten era as well as a lively literary intelligence of which English readers have heretofore been able to see only a small part. The translations themselves set a new standard for the rendering of the Chinese essay into English: at once meticulous in attention to detail and diction even while they capture the free flow of the original texts. This brilliant volume belongs on the shelf of every reader concerned with the evolution and vicissitudes of the modern trans-national city.

Theodore Huters, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Bringing The World Home: Appropriating The West In Late Qing And Early Republican China.

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