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Love in a Fallen City

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,474 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Eileen Chang is one of the great writers of twentieth-century China, where she enjoys a passionate following both on the mainland and in Taiwan. At the heart of Chang's achievement is her short fiction—tales of love, longing, and the shifting and endlessly treacherous shoals of family life. Written when Chang was still in her twenties, these extraordinary stories combine a ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published September 1943)
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Hugh
I wanted to read this because it appeared on the Powell's list of 25 books to read before you die which also includes several of my favourite books. [See below for the full list]:

This is a collection of stories set in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the 30s and 40s. It is rich in local colour and period detail, but I found it a little difficult to warm to, perhaps because the culture Chang describes seems very alien to a modern western eye.

Appendix: Powell's 25 books to read before you die: world edit
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Nicole~
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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Eileen Chang's ( Ailing Zhang ) stories, first published collectively as Romances, recreate in Love in a Fallen City a view of Chinese culture and society of the 1940s through keen observations of a fading traditional world. Chang's anthology of Chinese life offers a bleak yet insightful analysis of male and female natures, domestic roles, moral values and self-centered relationships, masterfully depicting in elegant prose a past struggling to maintain control against a revolutionizing present.

T
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Hadrian
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Funny that this is translated 'Love in a Fallen City'. 戀/恋 has connotations of attachment or longing, not just love (爱). Not to mention 'Fallen City' (倾城) is also allusive, referring not just to beauty and allure, but also something so beautiful that it leads to the downfall of a state (the full phrase being 倾城倾国). Then again, how could you be expected to translate all of this in the title without putting footnotes on the front cover?

When I was going through this collection, I felt that I was re
...more
Tony
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Hong Kong in the 1940s. Chinese customs and English manners. Eileen Chang transported me to that fusion, helped me understand it in a way that a mere history would not. Chang looks for the symbols, not just for us, but for her characters too. There are recurrent images. A man clutches azaleas on a bus, the red coloring the window. A young man sees this and rests his head on his own cold window. Later he will see red azaleas outside the window at his home, and rest his head on a cool table top. I ...more
Paul
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
This comprises of four novellas and two short stories; written by Chang in the 1940s. They contain opposites in tension (spiritual and physical love, East against West, tradition clashing with modernity). The effects of war and western influences are never very far away. The settings revolve around Hong Kong and Shanghai. Chang was not immune to the tensions in her own country and despite initial success in her own country, when she was forced to move to the US she struggled to relaunch
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Aubrey
4.5/5
In China, as elsewhere, the constraints imposed by the traditional moral code were originally constructed for the benefit of women: they made beautiful women even harder to obtain, so their value rose, and ugly women were spared the prospect of never-ending humiliation. Women nowadays don't have this kind of protective buffer, especially not mixed-blood girls, whose status is entirely undefined.
I love Pearl S. Buck, I really do, but the way her written legacy interfered with that of Eilee
...more
Alex
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, china
Part of my Fall 2017 Best Of Chinese Literature project; more here, and a cool list of books here.

Eileen Chang, "arguably China’s most influential female writer," was a scholar of English literature, which gives Love in a Fallen City an interesting kind of familiarity. The setting is different, but we've seen the plot before. This is the one about the seducer and the fallen woman.

Liusu is divorced - used goods. When a wealthy playboy flirts with her, she's torn: flattered but wary. But she agre
...more
El
Currently spinning:
Li Xianglan
Old-Shanghai-Mix


Before Amy Tan, there was Eileen Chang. Chang did in the early 20th century what Tan wants to do today - write stories that convey the relationships between men and women, old traditions vs. new, traditional vs. modernity. Chang did it with substantial grace. I've liked Tan, but I realize now what I was missing. (Not that it's fair to make comparisons, so I won't here.)

These six stories included in this collection are hard at times to read due to the
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Inderjit Sanghera
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The incandescence of moonlight permeates Eileen Chang’s prose, her stories tinged with the half-light of heartbreak and centred upon the lives of mainly upper or middle class Chinese women in the mid 20th century. Although it would be disingenuous to label Chang as a writer whose novels are centred on feminism, she certainly actively explores the role of women in what was a patriarchal society-from the stifling nature of social conventions surrounding a woman’s role in Chinese society, to all of ...more
Isidora
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it

I am always interested in worlds that are different to my own and so I started to read my first book written by a Chinese author. The collection of stories by Eileen Chang set in Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1940s.
These are tales of love, loss and longing. On a wider cover, they deal with conflicts between tradition and modernity, old and new China, ancient customs and foreign manners. Men and particularly women never find happiness, women have to overcome hundred troubles before they can get
...more
Louise
Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Eileen Chang connects this collection of short stories together by the common theme of troubled relationships. The turmoil of the relationships in these stories mirror the changes taking part in China during that time.

While I always felt a sense of dread when starting each new story, knowing that it'll never end in happily ever after, I was also eager to see what twists and turns the characters would go through in their quest for love.
Mizuki
Edited@23/01/2015: I made some new discoveries during the re-reading of this book, I feel for a few time the author had overdone her beautiful writing, but outside of this, it's still a worthy collection of short stories.

Love In a Fallen City is a collection of Chang's most well known novella: Aloeswood Incense: The First Brazier, Love In a Fallen City, The Golden Cangue, Sealed Off and Red Rose, White Rose. So fine are these stories, I suggest that if you planned to read only one single book by
...more
Jaclyn Shore
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm always fascinated by customs that are different to my own and I found the old family structures expressed in Chang's short stories very interesting. I sometimes feel like there is more of a slow beauty in Chinese writing, longer descriptions, which are so different to the cliches I'm used to and a focus on beauty in a different way, especially when it comes to those of colours, or people's features.

It's interesting to see how the difficulties faced by women in history have strong similaritie
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Nicole
Apr 14, 2015 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: fiction, china
Another one bites the dust.

First story is Aloeswood Incense. Lovely but bittersweet. Love is a dangerous drug. 3.5/5.

Second story: Jasmine Tea. OMFG. What an unlikeable, heinous character, rendering this short story practically unreadable. 0.5/5 stars.

That last story soured the entire reading experience for me. I knew this book wasn't for me after I realized that I refused to bring it in my commute to and from the uni. I downright preferred to stare into nothingness than continue reading this bo
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Dioni (Bookie Mee)
Mee's rating: 4.5/5

Review first published at: http://www.meexia.com/bookie/2010/07/...

Love in a Fallen City was picked for our Asian Book Group. It's a perfect selection after The Good Earth, because both women wrote in the same era, both about China. Buck is even mentioned in the Introduction by Karen S. Kingsbury, the translator.
"[Chang] tried , with little success, to break into the English-language fiction market... But the cultural and linguistic gaps were to wide to cross. As C. T. Hsia,
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Kate Levin
Aug 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Beautiful but cold.
Jorge Cienfuegos
Como dice la propia autora, son historias "corrientes", nada que no se haya leído antes, así que la belleza reside en la prosa. Me gusta mucho como escribe esta señora, por lo que la lectura ha sido más que satisfactoria. He disfrutado más la novela corta que le da título al libro que el relato que va después, pero supongo que eso ya es cuestión de gustos.
Meghan Fidler
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is my first experience with Ms. Eileen Chang. I would recommend others to experience Ms. Chang too.
By far the most intriguing elements of these stories were her descriptive terms. From "chicken fat yellow" to the "small, solid gold pendants of her earrings like two brass nails nailing her to the door, a butterfly specimen in a glass box, bright-colored and desolate," the essence of her powers of attribution is worth study.

In her own introduction to the text, Chang explains that "In the s
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Ruby
Jan 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I bought this short story/novella collection because I loved Chang's story "Red Rose, White Rose" in the anthology My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead. That story remains my favourite by a landslide, which made the whole reading experience a bit disappointing in general. This was mainly because of two things. First of all, I was surprised at the contrast in Chang's writing - her non-dialogue is fantastic, but I find her dialogues to be somewhat cringe-worthy at times. They do regularly sound forced - ...more
Dana
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Tri novele kineske spisateljice koja je pisala u prvoj polovini 20.veka, a posle Drugog svetskog rata emigrirala u Ameriku i tamo živela do smrti. Ove novele su napisane četrdesetih, dok je još živela u Kini i daju lep uvid u običaje, način života, udvaranja, izjava i odbijanja ljubavi, očekivanja, nadanja predstavnika da kažemo neke više srednje klase, pre svega žena. One su razapete između nečega što se shvata kao tradicija, morala svojih roditelja, i svojih želja kako žele da prožive život, k ...more
will
Mar 08, 2008 added it
This was a fascinating read, although I didn't finish a couple of the stories/novellas. Chang's subject is primarily human relationships, more specifically love with its ability to destroy as well as unite, and she approaches them unflinchingly and with a great eye for detail. But she also renders life in Shanghai with such vividness and specificity that the book almost seems to represent her love for the city, theme and form and setting united, etc. Shanghai is presented very much as a boundary ...more
Beth Ann
Apr 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Chang crafted prose full of precise description that is so beautiful and often sad that I hurt to read it. Perhaps that's fitting for a book full of melancholy tales. None of her characters find any lasting happiness. They are separated from others due to gender, class, and time. Men and women are no longer sure of their place in relationships, society, or work. Love affairs bring temporary connections, but no lasting comfort, and often repercussions. A modernizing China offers no guidelines. Ch ...more
Sasha Martinez
One of the first NYRB Classics I heard of—in tandem with John Williams’ Stoner —was Eileen Chang’s collection of novellas Love in a Fallen City. My bibliophilic enabler Aunt Anne sent me this book late last year, and it’s taken me this long to settle down and read it. And, you know, it was awesome.

For purposes of brevity [sorely lacking in my corner of the internet], this post is going to focus on the title novella. Which is, well, one of the best nerve-wracking, most quietly and dignifiedly te
...more
Lisa
Eileen Chang (1920-1995) was a Chinese writer whose life was profoundly affected by the upheavals of the 20th century. I have just read one of her most famous works, a novella entitled Love in a Fallen City.

Born in Shanghai into the instability of the nationalist Sun Yat-sen Republic, Chang's early life was a microcosm of the conflict between conservatives and modernists. Humiliations on the international stage led intellectuals in China to champion reforms in thinking, while reactionary forces
...more
Jenny
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did because a) she’s a female Chinese writer b) writing during the first half of the 20th century c) while China was under Japanese rule and Shanghai and Hong Kong are crumbling around her. But her writing style was too halting and abrupt for my taste (I don’t know how much of it is in the translation). All I know is events and plot move too quickly with little time for character development. A lot of people die very quickly and as the body count r ...more
Book Concierge
This is a collection of short works of fiction, ranging from 15 to 70 pages in length. The setting is the China of Chang’s youth and young adulthood, 1930-1945. The connecting thread is that they all deal with love – enduring, passionate, unrequited – and longing, and pit the traditional values of Chinese culture (honoring family, filial devotion) against the increasing influence from the West to “modernize.” The stories are fraught with sexual tension, moral ambiguity, and pangs of conscience. ...more
Motheaten
留情/ Mercy: The story starts out with tension between a mature age couple over the issue of the husband's ex-wife. While visiting relatives, the tension gradually eases as the couple is praised, advised, and commented on their close marital relationship. Despite the inevitable conflicts between a couple, at the end of day, what matters is the care and understanding they have for each other, that the marriage may just be more than an economic exchange.

茉莉香片/ Jasmine Tea: A melancholy story in which
...more
Daniel Polansky
Hell, was this good. Chang was a wealthy socialite in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and these series of long short stories about the years before and during the Japanese Occupation, of a China developing rapidly in uncertain times, are fabulous. Chang has a subtle touch and an appreciation for the complexities of human motivation comparable to any of the great English masters of the period, and her insight into an upper crust of coastal, Chinese elite, is truly fascinating. Imagine Somerset Maugham if ...more
GONZA
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebk
I will never be able to understand why some stories are considerate example of world literature.

Non capiró mai perché alcune storie assurgono agli onori di letteratura, mentre altre no.
Stephen Durrant
Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
I admire Eileen Chang's writing. She occupies an important place in the history of twentieth century Chinese literature. And yet, when I finished this excellent collection of some of her most acclaimed stories, I found that the plots and characters quickly fading from my mind. Just two or three days after finishing, I am hard-pressed to summarize coherently any of the six or seven stories in this book. This is strange because as I am reading Chang I invariably feel she quite brilliantly captures ...more
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  • My Fantoms
  • The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai
  • The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai
  • Last Words from Montmartre
  • A Dictionary of Maqiao
  • Peasants and Other Stories
  • The New York Stories of Edith Wharton
  • Six Records of a Floating Life
  • Raise the Red Lantern: Three Novellas
  • Dream of Ding Village
  • Memoirs of Hecate County
  • Fortress Besieged
  • Stick Out Your Tongue
  • Years of Red Dust: Stories of Shanghai
  • Chronicle of a Blood Merchant
  • The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories
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Eileen Chang is the English name for Chinese author 張愛玲, who was born to a prominent family in Shanghai (one of her great-grandfathers was Li Hongzhang) in 1920.

She went to a prestigious girls' school in Shanghai, where she changed her name from Zhang Ying to Zhang Ailing to match her English name, Eileen. Afterwards, she attended the University of Hong Kong, but had to go back to Shanghai when Ho
...more
More about Eileen Chang...