• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,083,146 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

Reading Notes: Eileen Chang

Owing to her poignant, complicated domestic background, Eileen Chang’s prose reflects a jaundiced and misanthropic view of her world. Chang rose to prominence in Shanghai during the 30s and 40s when the city was under the threat of Japanese occupation. But she cared less writing about patriotic theme as some of her contemporaries had criticized her. Her writing is unofficially known as boudoir realism.

I will defer the review of her collection of short stories, Love in a Fallen City, available for the first time in English under NYRB CLassics, to a future post. What really intrigue me are the venomous Chinese idioms and expressions that, upon being translated into English, they don’t lose much of the edginess. I have complied an informal list to whet readers’ taste.

Aloeswood Incense
“The King of Hell is a gentleman, but the little devils are pests.”
“When you go under another’s roof, how can you avoid bowing?”
“True gold doesn’t fear testing by fire.”
“Crows will be black, wherever you go; men will always fall for this kind of bait.”
“Why are you staring like that? It’s as if I were a thorn stuck in your eye.”
“Dare to fume but dare not speak.”

Jasmine Tea
“You! What’s there to see in you? Three parts human, seven parts ghost—”
“A creepy sneak like you, not an ounce of manliness in you, a laughing-stock to everyone!”

Love in a Fallen City
“The law is one thing today and another tomorrow. What I’m talking about is the law of family relations, and that never changes! As long as you live you belong to his family, and after you die your ghost will belong to them too!”
“The tree may be a thousand feet tall, but the leaves fall back to the roots.”
“Then she came back here, and now her family, as everyone can see, is going bankrupt. A real bad-luck comet, that one!”
“If I’d known that you two really wanted to break it off, do you think I would have helped you get a divorce? Breaking up other peoples’ marriages means there won’t be any sons or grandsons.”

Aren’t we Chinese sharp-tongued people?

6 Responses

  1. Indeed! Especially the grandmothers! LOL.

    Thanks for the insight about Eileen Chang. As you know, we’ll be reading this in June. I’ll refer to this post because it’s helpful to learn this bit about the author and the language. I hope you join in on the discussion then.

    • Claire, I’m reading original texts and the translation side by side. Of course, I’ve made more progress on the translation! I’ll have plenty of time to finish the original texts until the discussion takes place in June. I can’t wait to talk about the stories! 🙂

  2. Some wonderful quotes. I love: “A tree may be a thousand feet tall…”

    Are the Chinese really sharp-tongued? Maybe that’s only perceptible to people who have sharp ears. 🙂

    • Greg, we tend to talk in very short sentences, employing very sharp and edgy idioms and colloquials. So often we skip pronouns and alter tones to express sarcasm or sneers.

  3. Indeed we are! Razor sharp. Cuts like a knife when you first hear it, hurts like a wound when one think it back again! 😉

    “Three parts human, seven parts ghost” I used this myself, I just can’t help smiling when I think back the cantonese version.

    Bad luck comet, made me smile too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: