Written on Water

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 3/1/2008
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press

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Known as "the Garbo of Chinese letters" for her elegance and the aura of mystery that surrounded her, Eileen Chang is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential modern Chinese novelists and cultural critics of the twentieth century. In Written on Water, first published in 1945 and now available for the first time in English, Chang offers essays on art, literature, war, and urban life, as well as autobiographical reflections. Chang takes in the sights and sounds of wartime Shanghai and Hong Kong, with the tremors of national upheaval and the drone of warplanes in the background, and inventively fuses explorations of urban life, literary trends, domestic habits, and historic events. These evocative and moving firsthand accounts examine the subtle and not-so-subtle effects of the Japanese bombing and occupation of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Eileen Chang writes of friends, colleagues, and teachers turned soldiers or wartime volunteers, and her own experiences as a part-time nurse. Her nuanced depictions range from observations of how a woman's elegant dress affects morale to descriptions of hospital life. With a distinctive style that is at once meditative, vibrant, and humorous, Chang engages the reader through sly, ironic humor; an occasionally chatty tone; and an intense fascination with the subtleties of modern urban life. The collection vividly captures the sights and sounds of Shanghai, a city defined by its mix of tradition and modernity. Chang explores the city's food, fashions, shops, cultural life, and social mores; she reveals and upends prevalent attitudes toward women and in the process presents a portrait of a liberated, cosmopolitan woman, enjoying the opportunities, freedoms, and pleasures offered by urban life. In addition to her descriptions of daily life, Chang also reflects on a variety of artistic and literary issues, including contemporary films, the aims of the writer, the popularity of the Peking Opera, dance, and painting.

Table of Contents

Translator's Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. ix
From the Mouths of Babesp. 1
Writing of One's Ownp. 15
Notes on Apartment Lifep. 23
Bugle Music from the Night Barracksp. 29
"What Is Essential Is That Names Be Right"p. 33
From the Ashesp. 39
Shanghainese, After Allp. 53
Seeing with the Streetsp. 57
A Chronicle of Changing Clothesp. 65
Lovep. 79
Speaking of Womenp. 81
By the Light of the Silver Lanternp. 93
Let's Go! Let's Go Upstairsp. 97
Schooling at the Silver Palacep. 101
Peking Opera Through Foreign Eyesp. 105
On Carrotsp. 115
The Sayings of Yanyingp. 117
Unpublished Manuscriptsp. 119
What Are We to Write?p. 129
Making Peoplep. 131
Beating Peoplep. 135
Poetry and Nonsensep. 139
With the Women on the Tramp. 145
Whispersp. 147
Unforgettable Paintingsp. 163
Under an Umbrellap. 171
On Dancep. 173
On Paintingp. 189
On the Second Edition of Romancesp. 199
On Musicp. 203
Epilogue: Days and Nights of Chinap. 213
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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