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Translating Eileen Chang

The second book for Chinese Literature Challenge is the work of another Chinese literary master in the early 20th century. An Affair of Half a Life (also known as Eighteen Springs) has never been translated into English. It’s one of Eileen Chang’s few long novels. 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.

An Affair of Half a Life is a love tragedy. a story of romance and fate set in the Shanghai of the 1930s. Manjing, a young woman from a once-well-off family, works in a Shanghai factory, where she meets Shujun, the son of wealthy Nanjing merchants. Despite Shujun’s reservations about Manjing’s family (her sister, Manlu works as a nightclub “hostess”), they manage, in stages, to fall in love. The expected progress through engagement to marriage is interrupted, first by Manjing’s ambivalence about taking this step, then by Shujun’s rejection of her family, and finally by that family’s baroquely conceived abuse and enslavement of Shujun. After a long period of seperation, Shujun and Manjing meet, but realize that their happiness remains only in memory, in a nostalgic re-imagining of opportunities missed, understandings never arrived at.

I will translate some of the key passages from the book to the best of my ability when I am ready to review it. To give you a head’s up, my reviewing of other books might slow down because more time and attention shall be devoted to this work.

4 Responses

  1. Wow, what a cool project. Enjoy and good luck!

  2. let me review your work (LOL)

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