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The Song of Everlasting Sorrow

Where have I been that I do not know this book is available in English translation? The Song of Everlasting Sorrow is named one of the top 100 Chinese novels in the 20th century. It’s the story of Wang Qiyao, a young student in Shanghai whose simple beauty impresses photographer Mr. Cheng, who suggests that Qiyao enter a beauty contest. Qiyao wins 2nd runner up, and promptly catches the eye of Councilor Li, a Nationalist official who makes Qiyao his mistress, and even furnishes her with a sumptuous Shanghai flat. But times in Shanghai, and larger China, are changing quickly, and Councilor Li is but the first of many men to make their mark on Qiyao’s life. For a Chinese woman living in an increasingly rigid society, Qiyao’s sordid past becomes a millstone, and yet she struggles to rise above it. Can she?

7 Responses

  1. Have you read this one in the original, Matt? Obviously that’s not an option for me (though I can now say about 10 phrases in Mandarin and count to 10!), but I’d be interested in checking out the English version!

    • I’m looking forward to this reading this one, because Wang Anyi is a contemporary of Chang Ailing (Eileen Cheng). I’m getting both original Chinese text and English translation.

  2. It’s now on my list. Thanks.

  3. I’m ashamed to say that I have read no Chinese literature.

    • A good introductory point would be Eileen Chang, whose story collection, Love in a Fallen City, is available under New York Reviews Books (NYRB). I also recommend Lu Xun if you’re interested in 20th century Chinese Literature, and Yu Hwa.

      • Thank you for your recommendations Matthew. I am adding these to my list!

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