Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: May 2, 2023
Written on Water
by Eileen Chang, translated from the Chinese by Andrew F. Jones
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 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 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 Shanghainese 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.
Original, memorable and unlike anything else that has come from the era. A fine contribution to Chinese letters in translation.
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