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Fortress Besieged

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  326 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The greatest Chinese novel of the twentieth century. Fortress Besieged is a classic of world literature, a masterpiece of parodic fiction that plays with Western literary traditions, philosophy, and middle-class Chinese society in the Republican era. Set on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, our hapless hero Fang Hung-chien (à la Emma Bovary), with no particular goal in lif ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1947)
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Ethan Cramer-Flood
Fortress Besieged is regarded as one of the great Chinese novels of the twentieth century. Published in the 1940s, and set in 1937-38 during the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war that preceded World War II, it's supposed to be a triumph of social satire, word play, and uniquely Chinese cynicism about relationships, families, and human behavior in general.

If all this is true, then the translation in this version has not done Qian Zhongshu justice. Either that, or the social elements that he's se
Harker US Library
It’s a sad fact of English-language literature that the number of books translated from English and shipped around the world far outstrips that of books translated into English from other languages. That means the pool of books available to American readers in translation from, say, Mandarin is relatively limited—only works of scholarly interest, unusual acclaim, or specifically Western appeal make their way to our libraries. Fortunately, Qian Zhongshu’s classic Fortress Besieged meets all three ...more
Olive Huang
Humorous of harsh language and the deeper observation on life.

The title is based on a French proverb:

Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out.

(Le mariage est une forteresse assiégée, ceux qui sont dehors veulent y entrer, ceux qui sont dedans veulent en sortir.)
Carlos Ray
¿Puede un libro machista y xenófobo reírse de la falocracia y la xenofobia? Por supuesto que sí, y lo que es mejor, puede hacerlo con inteligencia y mucho, mucho humor.

En esta novela, Zhongshu se ríe. Se ríe de los extranjeros, esos franceses buenos para nada, esos yanquis que ya a mediados del siglo XX se creían el ombligo del mundo, esos japoneses que [inserte aquí cualquier comentario derivado de la mentalidad de posguerra sino-japonesa]; se ríe de las mujeres, seres hipócritas, controladore
This is a satirical comedy of manners set in China in 1937 during the Japanese invasion, which only appears in the background. The language takes a little getting used to whether due to the translation or not, I couldn't tell. Almost every page has a funny metaphor, for instance: "He didn't realize that a person's shortcomings are just like a monkey's tail. When it's squatting on the ground, it's tail is hidden from view, but as soon as it climbs a tree, it exposes it's backside to everyone. Nev ...more
Benjamin Parry
This was the first book that I’ve read in China, and hopefully will be a great introduction to my reading while here. It was a great story, which I enjoyed right up until the end. The best summary of the plot is from the back cover in that it follows the “misadventures of the hapless hero”. However I would rather not focus on the plot as I wouldn’t want to ruin the points for anyone that might want to read it, and I don’t think that it is that helpful in getting an understanding of the flavor of ...more
Excellent read! I'm not a fast reader, but this book couldn't be put down. As a married English teacher living in China, there are so many things that I can relate to. And it gave my the deepest insight yet to personal relationships of the people of China. Of course, it's only fiction, but it's very difficult for foreigners to get a glimpse into the personal lives of Chinese. It's a great book on many levels.
Marcel Meyer
It is surprising that Qian is not better known in the Western world. His only novel is a masterpiece that has its rightful place amongst the best of the 20th century. It has everything a novel needs. It's funny, it's clever, it's multi-layered, has skillful character portrays and references to literature world-wide (!) and, importantly, a pleasant pace of story-telling. What more would you want of a book!
This is a really good book for Chinese language students. Most reading material for intermediate students is short texts that don't differ much from what you'd find in a text book. This is an actual novel simplified for the student with vocabulary translations, pinyin, and comprehension questions in Chinese at the end of each chapter.

Even with the vocabulary I found there were still some words that I had to look up. Some parts of the story were harder than others but overall I was able to read
A terrific novel, and a delight to read, certainly in this vivid Dutch translation.

Ik heb al meer citaten uit dit boek aangehaald. Het is misschien geen perfecte roman, maar wel een heel onderhoudende, en je kunt eruit blijven citeren. ('De Ier vloekte en tierde, bedronk zich en ging met rooddoorlopen ogen op zoek naar een Chinees om in elkaar te slaan.') Maar ik denk dat ik maar gewoon een andere recensent citeer: Ger Leppers, die in Trouw een heel goed beeld van het boek schetste (afgezien van
Daniel Silveyra
I'd like to note that Chien Chung-shu is not the translator but the author.

I bought this one in the English-language section in a Chongqing Xinhua bookstore. Some Princeton professor is quoted in the back as saying that this may be China's best 20th century novel. Well, I'm not sure about that, but it is an entertaining read and has several interesting observations about WWII China.

The story is a satire about a failed, petty and dishonest Chinese scholar who studies abroad in the 1930s. We follo
Hui Yao
I seldom finish a book completely. Within my memory, Fortress Besieged is one of the few novels which I've really finished, so I absolutely like the book. I read the Chinese version, and personally, I reckon the translation is easier for this book, as the style and air throughout the novel seems a mixture of the east and the west.
Oct 07, 2014 Restaino marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
"Qian Zhongshu's classic 1947 novel Fortress Besieged (available in English translation) is perhaps the best evocation in fiction of what the tumultuous politics of the 1930s meant for China's own citizens as they coped with the onset of war and the horrors that followed." Rana Mitter, The Guardian, Friday 8 June 2012.
Un récit moderne qui nous mets en garde contre notre indécision, dénigration des actions et des idées de nos proches en fonction de nos propres idées sans lien avec ce qu'ils pensent vraiment. Un avertissement contre le laisser-aller et la déférence continuelle envers de faux autorités que nous sachons corrompus, se posant comme le mode de vie et l'inaction qui mène à la perte: toutefois ce livre se dispense des appels vers l'ordre moral, et démontre plutôt l'incompréhension mutuelle qui en déco ...more
This really is for the most part a comedy of manners although it has a lot to say about expectations versus the realities of the marital bond. Surprisingly accessible for those who might generally be put off by Asian fiction, this satirical novel set in 1930s China expresses the frustrations of individuals coping with traditional values imposed on social conventions. What struck me was how the world around these families is changing dramatically even violently forms the backdrop for families man ...more
I wish I could read this in the original Chinese and am also curious how well this very 'bourgeois' work is known in modern China. In places Fortress Besieged is amusing, sometimes even very funny; in other places it is somber, sometimes (especially at the end) outright tragic. To me this book stands out for two things: it's colorful and ironic description of semi-westernized educated Chinese in the 1930's and its far more universal portrayal of what goes into making - and destroying - a marriag ...more
Deemed one of the greats of modern Chinese fiction, this comedy of manners is excellent at satirising the faux-intellectual manners of the "returned students" (Chinese students returning from study overseas) during the 1920s and 30s. The translation is good, though the reviewer has not yet read the original text, but unfortunately owing to its era-specific satire, many of the jokes and pastiches of intellectual currents are somewhat lost on the modern reader.
Fiction A-Z Book 'Q': Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu

This wasn't as accessible as some of the other Chinese Fiction I've read. There were a lot of characters to focus on, and there's a wall of period social convention that must be scaled to really get a sense of the book. But Qian has a lot to say about relationships, most of which is still relevant today. It's a good book, but not an easy one to get through.
R. August
Brilliant. Our hero is one who most people, and especially myself, can relate to. The minor struggles that the marriage goes through, knowing full well that if any one of several environmental stresses were different (money, food, no war, no other family members, jobs) they would probably have stayed together. The last paragraph was probably the best ending of any book I've ever read. Brilliant.
As a novel, Fortress Besiegned is not a convinced masterpiece.Through the history of the Chiniese novel, however, there are few works able to meet the highest level of the novel. In fact, the novel has not developed in China as well as it has done in other nations.
Even so, Fortress Beisiegned is still remarkable for its satire and wit. Mr.Qian was a real master of languages.
Read this for Charles Laughlin's Modern Chinese Lit class....Qian Zhongshu was a genius and it really comes through in the book. It's so long but he's a great writer (you have to be somewhat comfortable with references to traditional Chinese literature and history) and it's a great story.
Elizabeth Bradley
A cross between "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Singapore Grip," set in 1930s China. If you can wrap your head around that, you might really like it. I did, at least until the satire evaporated at the very end...
I found this book readable, I think I should enjoy reading its Chinese copy more but I know just few Chinese words so I ordered a copy and gave it as a present to T., my dear Chinese student.
Qian is the greatest author in China!! His humorous writing style is just what I like! It's really fun reading his books!!! I've also read the Chinese version, so wanna check out the English one.
Ein nicht alltägliches Buch über China im Übergang in die moderne. Hervorragende Beschreibung der Kultur und der Protagonisten des Romans.
Zhang Stanley
the translation isn't as good as the original. but a wonderful book all the same.
Just a masterpiece!I loved Qian Zhongshu's sense of humour:)
Four and half stars, actually!
amazingly flat relationships
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