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348 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 1, 1943

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About the author

Eileen Chang

83 books509 followers
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 Chang Ying to Chang Ai-ling to match her English name, Eileen. Afterwards, she attended the University of Hong Kong, but had to go back to Shanghai when Hong Kong fell to Japan during WWII. While in Shanghai, she was briefly married to Hu Lancheng, the notorious Japanese collaborator, but later got a divorce.

After WWII ended, she returned to Hong Kong and later immigrated to the United States in 1955. She married a scriptwriter in 1956 and worked as a screenwriter herself for a Hong Kong film studio for a number of years, before her husband's death in 1967. She moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1972 and became a hermit of sorts during her last years. She passed away alone in her apartment in 1995.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 456 reviews
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,272 reviews49 followers
February 7, 2017
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 edition

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Nigeria
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov Russia
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino Italy
Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang China
Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee South Africa
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar Argentina
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson Finland
Independent People by Halldór Laxness Iceland
A Heart So White by Javier Marías Spain
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry India
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami Japan
Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec France
Blindness by José Saramago Portugal
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald Germany

Rashomon and Seventeen other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa Japan
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich Belarus
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado Brazil
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante Italy
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano Uruguay
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal Czech Republic
The Bone People by Keri Hulme New Zealand
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid Antigua
Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector Brazil
Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif Saudi Arabia
The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz Poland
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,491 reviews2,726 followers
January 31, 2022
"I can't live in this house any longer," she whispered. "I just can't!" Her voice was faint and floating, like a trailing tendril of dust.

This is a gorgeous collection of novellas and stories by Chang, including one which she translated herself into English. Set in 1930s/1940s Shanghai and Hong Kong, they're located against a barely-mentioned backdrop of war (7 December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbour, is one of the few dates to give us a foothold on external time) and chart a period of change, conflict and confusion.

The best stories, for me, focus on women's lives: the quiet desperation of family politics where legitimate wives and concubines struggle inaudibly for power, the fate of women divorced and returned to their families, a world where matchmakers are still in use and where love is elusive, troublesome and unstable.

There's a lovely combination of delicacy and ruthlessness about Chang's vision and prose, and I especially love the touches of Chinese culture that have a presence, so different from the overt 'orientalising' of Western writing about 'exotic' China: Chang's a 'plum-rain season', a woman likened to 'the inlaid flower' on a 'black lacquer tray', the axiom that 'people who marry for love are as foolish as the man with the cloud-filled jars'.

There's something deliciously elusive about these stories that makes them atmospheric but hard to pin down - they are not easily summarised as 'plot' and instead almost exist as a tangible feeling but more robust than that rather airy description implies.

Deceptively simple and simultaneously subtle, these are not quick-read pieces for commuting but invite and deserve a slower, more thoughtful readerly engagement. At her best, Chang makes my fingers tingle with literary excitement.
Profile Image for Nicole~.
198 reviews252 followers
June 15, 2016
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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.

The title story, Love in a Fallen City, is a tale of two cities in transition - old Shanghai and modern Hong Kong - with the Japanese invasion of 1941 as a subtly structured backdrop, and owns one of Chang's rare hopeful endings. Over the stale atmosphere of an oppressive household, a huqin wails its melancholic tune of a heroine who endures the stigma of divorce and the spiteful pettiness and jealousy of her relatives. Fealty and filial piety, chastity and righteousness fill the life that mundanely ticks away on the dry, wrinkled hands of the old clock. Bai Liusu's daily life, bowing to the ways of old, is a suffocating 'tale too desolate for words.' She grabs a chance to flee Shanghai to cosmopolitan Hong Kong, to explore freedom from the restrictions of an antiquated life, but steps in the diverting path of Liuyuan - a Western-educated man, refined, egotistic and traditionally chauvinistic. Old gender stereotypes distort a budding romance but, as long- established barriers crumble: a dutiful, prostrating woman might find love in the ashes of a razed city, if the game is played right.

Chang, a scholar of The Dream of The Red Chamber, sculpts her literary aesthetics with the sophisticated style of the Chinese classics whose heroines, bound by old feudal systems, pine idealistically for pure love while pessimism darkens their nature and desolation overshadows their existence. In The Golden Cangue - her most dismal story in contrast to LFC and more implicit in her denouncement of a degrading social system - Chang draws images of 'that -thing- around -your -neck' metaphor for the enslavement and control of its wearer, exploring how human nature degenerates when left in morally putrefied surroundings. Ch’i-ch’iao, sold by her brother into marriage to the paralyzed son of an upper-class family, shares the fate of many Chinese women forced into an overtly dehumanizing practice. Trapped under the roof of decadence and corruption, Ch'i-ch'iao sense of virtue deteriorates and, driven to madness, retaliates for her sad, pathetic life by cruelly victimizing her children.

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Life is an exquisite gown riddled with lice - Eileen Chang

In A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, C. T. Hsia praises Eileen Chang as a literary genius, helping to steer newly critical appraisal of her work after decades of almost being forgotten. Chang enjoyed instant success with Love in a Fallen City and was popularly compared to Jane Austen for her probing psychological insights into society and love relationships. Why then did this stunning writer allow her star to fizzle; retreat into a self-imposed exile ; die a veritable recluse? The romantic in me imagines some unfulfilled passion parallel to the tragic heroine Lin Daiyu of The Dream of The Red Chamber. I'm excited that this renewed interest in Chang's work means flooding the Western market with English translations, among them, hopefully soon, her biography.

Other pending reads from Eileen Chang :

Naked Earth
The Fall of the Pagoda
The Rice Sprout Song
The Rouge of the North
Written on Water

Profile Image for Paul.
1,218 reviews1,962 followers
June 9, 2017
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 her career. She died a recluse in 1995.
There is an acidity to the writing which is delightful and Chang has a perceptive way of building and showing character. In the title story a young divorcee is falling in love with a wealthy playboy;
“Whenever they were in public, he made sure to give the impression of affectionate intimacy, so now there was no way to prove that they had not slept together”
When he gives her up and despair sets in her family’s response is telling;
“People who don’t have money can’t just give up, even if they want to. Shave your head, become a nun, and when you beg for alms, you’ll still have to deal with people.”
Chang’s powers of description are also very powerful; one of the stories begins;
“The tramcar driver drove his tram, the tramcar tracks, in the blazing sun, shimmered like two shiny worms oozing out from water: stretch, then shrink, stretch, then shrink. Soft and slippery, long old worms, slinking on and on and on ... the driver stared at the wriggling rails, and did not go mad.”
But most of all Chang looks at the role women in a changing world; trapped by social constraints and a very limited supply of options. Some of the characters fail, others succeed to an extent, but Chang creates memorable and convincing characters who command attention.
Although Chang is better known now; she still does not get the attention she deserves and she certainly does deserve a wider audience.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,360 reviews794 followers
February 6, 2016
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 Eileen Chang's is a tragedy. Readers introduced through the Nobel Prize Winner to China would expect exacting honor, high drama, sultry romance, any other conjunction of the profligating misnomer known as the 'East'; even more absurd a concept when said readers are US bound and must look to the west for their fill of fiction. They would not have been satisfied with these short and biting works, bred on an entirely different culture with strains more akin to Fitzgerald and O'Connor than anything the historical fiction trends of the States could conjure up. And so we left yet another author to their own devices, till when dead and gone we could sift through and lift up their works in as fitting a posthumous manner as we please.

A bitter triumph both here and across the sea, for as an expatriate Chang was unjustly ignored, the only alternative to a home country banning. You'll find very little of such unsavory politickings here, an authorial choice that let her works alone before the government shifted and her wealthy background combined with lack of polemical interests chased her from Shanghai to Hong Kong and finally to LA to die alone in an apartment within my lifetime. It's a flavor of acrid living that she captured on paper even in her youthful twenties, as these stories are happiness of the trained sort, gilded robes and bound feet reminiscent of ruffled skirts and excised ribs in the land of Christians and their Boxer Rebellion. True, Shanghai is not Paris or London, Berlin or New York, but you don't need white people to play out the conflicts of modern life on a theme of hope and decadence, luxurious backdrops galore to the young choking on the old, women flying too far to forget the taste when time comes for men to clip their wings.

There's beauty, though, unfamiliar enough for me to spend a moment unraveling the colors and densities, landscapes heated to a different symphony of flora and fauna, living spaces enclosed within collections of wood and stone whose recognition comes only through many a visit to the houses of my friends, here in the Bay Area where the high school classes are 18% 'Caucasian' and the vernacular of ABC (American Born Chinese), banana (yellow on the out, white on the in), and egg (you get the picture) were the norm on campus grounds. This mix and meld of upbringing made me wish once to follow said friends on one of their summer retreats to kith and kin, a wish revitalized by what I knew within these pages and the far more that I didn't. I know my poor head for languages too well to ever hope to grasp the five thousand plus characters of the Chinese language, but the excursion would provide sorely needed grounding of contextual reality for my abstract intake, if nothing else. That, and reading The Story of the Stone, whose pervasive influence apparent even in this literature of the 20th century has shoved it forward a few hundred in the shelves.
The white Liang mansion was melting viscously into the white mist, leaving only the greenish gleam of the lamplight shining through square after square of the green windowpanes, like ice cubes in peppermint schnapps. When the fog thickened, the ice cubes dissolved, and the lights went out.
Keep an eye on that NYRB cover, Ah Xian's China, China: Bust 34 in profile. It conveys the book better than I ever could.
Profile Image for Tony.
920 reviews1,555 followers
December 18, 2014
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. In another story:

The wall was cool and rough, the color of death. Pressed against the wall, her face bloomed with the opposite hues: red lips, shining eyes--a face of flesh and blood, alive with thought and feeling.

You could read these stories as feminist tract. You could read it as life, everyday life of real people, while the War looms. You could read it as a search for love, tantalizingly just out of reach. Is it possible for us to ever understand one another?

Life was like the Bible, translated from Hebrew to Greek, from Greek to Latin, from Latin to English, from English to Mandarin Chinese. When Cuiyuan read it, she translated the Mandarin into Shanghainese. Some things did not come through.

There is a story called Red Rose, White Rose. It is not a story of adultery, not really, more a story of what might have been:

There were two women in Zhenbao's life: one he called his white rose, the other his red rose. ... Maybe every man has had two such women--at least two. Marry a red rose and eventually she'll be a mosquito-blood streak smeared on the wall, while the white one is "moonlight in front of my bed." Marry a white rose, and before long she'll be a grain of sticky rice that's gotten stuck to your clothes; the red one, by then, is a scarlet beauty mark just over your heart. (Hint: like the azaleas, the moonlight, here, should be followed.)

My favorite story was Sealed Off. A tramcar stops suddenly. Unspoken, that looming War is the cause. "Ding-ding-ding" rang the bell. Each "ding" was a small, cold dot: dot after dot, they formed a line that cut through space and time. Dots? Yes, the tram is full of people. Dots in a line. What do we do when the tramcar stops? People who had newspapers read newspapers; those who didn't have newspapers read receipts, or rules and regulations, or business cards. People who were stuck without a single scrap of printed matter read shop signs along the street. They simply had to fill this terrifying emptiness--otherwise, their brains might start working. Thinking is painful business. (That's why I always take a book.) Eventually one dot leaves the line. A man. He goes to talk to a woman. Small, cold dots.

Ding-ding-ding. Ding-ding-ding.
Profile Image for Dilushani Jayalath.
995 reviews162 followers
June 23, 2023
I have always harboured a profound fascination with the life of Eileen Chang, ever since I encountered a mention of her work, "Lust, Caution," although I have neither watched nor read it. The lives of authors, particularly those from the 20th century, have consistently captivated my interest. Perhaps it is just my personal inclination, but sometimes I find that authors' lives can at times be more enthralling than their stories themselves. Thus, my fascination with Eileen Chang and her existence immersed in the Western-Chinese lifestyle of the 20th century China was initiated.

To be truthful, I bought this book quite some time ago, and despite my yearning to read it for an extended period, I had continually postponed doing so. I did some extensive research, cautiously avoiding any spoilers, in order to secure a book by Eileen Chang that possessed a somewhat favourable conclusion. Unfortunately, I mistakenly believed that this was merely a solitary short story, and I, to my own chagrin, held the impression that it would contain one short story with a happy ending. In retrospect, I am relieved that my initial assumption was misguided, as I ended up encountering not just one exceptional literary piece by Eileen Chang, but rather a collection of six distinct works. Through this experience, I personally comprehended the immense talent and prolific nature of Chang as a writer.

One aspect of Asian literature that engrosses me is its capacity to transport us into alternate realms. Although I hesitate to make generalizations, I find myself possessing a rather inexplicable affinity towards Asian narratives. It is conceivable that this affinity arises from my own Asian background. Yet, as I immerse myself in these narratives, which represent vastly contrasting cultures, my fascination grows. Additionally, their ability to interweave reality with the historical atrocities we ourselves have endured facilitates a deeper understanding of these stories. An often overlooked element that remains prevalent within our societies is the enduring impact of colonization, which many fail to acknowledge. While some may argue that this period belongs to a bygone era and much has transpired since, it would be ignorant to assume that our lives and the world as a whole have been completely reshaped since that time. The wounds inflicted during colonization persist, even to this day. Personally, until recent times, I would listen to my grandfather's accounts of how British systems dictated life during his era and how they were compelled to conform to a lifestyle that catered to British preferences rather than embracing their own cultural heritage. Countless cultural identities were decimated, and in some cases, not even traces of these cultures remain. Such cultures were inherently rich and cannot be replicated by any other. Monarchies, despite my lack of fervor for monarchical systems, stand as remnants of our ancestors and were utterly obliterated. Yet, we now witness and cheer for individuals on television who bear the blood of those who destroyed these ancient civilizations, heralding them as some of the greatest rulers history has ever witnessed. While they may indeed be regarded as great by some, for most of us, they symbolize the memories of what we have lost, what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers lost. This extensive rumination is intended to elucidate how I feel a certain kinship with Asian novels. Although I believe this digression should rightfully pertain to the book I am currently reading, it is worth noting that remnants of British rule persist within Chang's world as well. The recurring presence of opium and its consequential effects, along with the imprint of Western modes of thought, are observable in nearly every story, influencing the thoughts and behaviours of our heroines and heroes.

Chang possesses an unparalleled mastery of language, enabling her to elicit in readers a sense of romance that defies conventional notions of happiness or sorrow. Upon concluding her narratives, we are left in a state of emotional ambivalence. It simply reflects life itself. By the time I reached the final short story, I found myself contemplating whether Chang had ever penned a tale with a genuinely happy ending. However, considering the historical context in which she lived, happiness may have been an elusive luxury. In times of adversity, even the smallest semblance of joy, whether morally upright or not, is cherished dearly. Perhaps my upbringing, despite my extensive discourse on culture, influences such a statement. One intriguing aspect I noticed was the prevalence of families from higher or working-class backgrounds achieving success within her stories. This is a noteworthy reflection of the society from which Chang emerged. It is undeniably intriguing that the literary works of Eileen Chang offer us, as readers situated in contemporary society, a remarkable opportunity to gain insights into the lives of individuals in that particular era. In my personal opinion, this can be regarded as the paramount contribution bestowed upon us by Chang.

For the first time, I feel as though I am composing a review that lacks coherence, merely pouring forth a torrent of thoughts. Therefore, I extend my apologies to anyone reading this review. Certain books have a propensity to leave one pondering over a myriad of topics. Such has been my experience as of late, as the recent books I have read have prompted me to reflect increasingly upon our collective past and how our present lives have been shaped by it. My predilection for delving into post-war regeneration literature has only exacerbated this inclination. The forthcoming book I am about to read will undoubtedly inspire me to expound upon unnecessary tangents related to the past even more than this current endeavour. I may appear to be an embittered individual anchored in the past (an inclination that can be partially ascribed to my present occupation as a history student), but there ought to be individuals who remember. It is not that I harbour a desire to perpetuate these acrimonious ruminations; rather, we must learn from our mistakes. Yet, it feels as though we are trapped in a perpetual limbo, where power-hungry individuals trample upon those who are incapable of defending themselves in their relentless pursuit of ambition.
Profile Image for Ana Cristina Lee.
662 reviews272 followers
August 28, 2021
En esta novella de menos de 100 páginas - acompañada de otro breve relato ‘Bloqueados’ – Eileen Chang nos translada a Shanghai y Hong Kong a principios de los años 40, en plena segunda guerra mundial. La protagonista es Liusu, una mujer divorciada de 28 años que ha tenido que volver con su familia tras un matrimonio fracasado.

Hay elementos muy interesantes en esta historia. El entorno de Liusu, con esa familia rígidamente estructurada – ella es ‘la sexta hermana’ – con los hermanos y las cuñadas compitiendo por el poder. También está la figura de la casamentera, que busca un matrimonio favorable para las hermanas y les presenta a un rico heredero, Liu Yan, que se enamorará de Liusu, y le planteará una relación poco convencional.

Hay momentos apasionantes, como el bombardeo de Hong Kong, donde los sentimientos se desbordan con la intuición de que hay un orden que está siendo destruido para abrir paso a nuevas formas de entender la vida y la sociedad.

Lo que menos me ha funcionado es la relación entre los dos protagonistas, a ratos me ha parecido un poco absurda la incomunicación que crean de una manera un poco gratuita, pero supongo que es una manera de reflejar los prejuicios que les atenazan.

La segunda historia, sobre un breve idilio que se desarrolla en un tranvía bloqueado, es muy cortita, pero también se lee con agrado. El tema viene a ser el mismo: la dificultad de amar en una sociedad rígida que coarta la libertad de los sentimientos.

Creo que la voz de la autora es muy valiente y audaz para su época y ofrece un buen retrato de la sociedad tradicional china.
Profile Image for Repellent Boy.
503 reviews523 followers
January 26, 2021
Liusu es un mujer divorciada de 28 años y este hecho, en la China de los años 40, desemboca en que su familia no la mira con buenos ojos. Diez años antes dejó a su marido, el cual la maltrataba y volvió a su antiguo hogar. Sin embargo, sus hermanos se gastaron rápidamente el dinero de esta, y ahora la acusan de ser una verguenza y de costarles mantenerla. Un día, su hermana pequeña recibirá una entrevista para un posible matrimonio, pero Liuyuan, el candidato, quedará encandilado por la belleza de Liusu. Esta decidirá aprovechar la que posiblemente sea su única posibilidad de salir adelante.

Es una pena que la historia no haya terminado de explotar, porque me gustaba prácticamente todo. El dilema de Liusu, me encantaba. Una mujer divorcida, luchando por una vida mejor que se debate entre no tener dinero para mantenerse por sí misma y el no poder trabajar, ya que podría perder su condición de señorita. Lidia con la envidia de sus cuñadas y hermanos que la ven como una carga y se siente despreciada en su propia casa. Y por supuesto, la trama con Liuyuan, ese tira y afloja entre ambos. Dos conquistadores natos jugando a ver quien caza a quien. Son temas que me ganaron rápidamente.

¿Cuál es el problema entonces? Que dura lo mismo que un suspiro. Y todo el tiempo la trama va excesivamente acelerada. Todo pasa super rápido y no da pie al crecimiento natural de los personajes. Este tipo de historias donde los sentimientos de los personajes aportan tanto a la trama, necesitan para mí una extención bastante mayor para permitirnos conocerlos mejor, y así poder disfrutarlos. Y es un libro muy apresurado, que te lees en una tarde.

Es una lástima, porque Liusu era una protagonista femenina muy potente y el dúo que forma con Liuyuan era muy interesante y merecía ser un poco más explorado. Además, el final me ha gustado un montón, lo cual hace que me de hasta más coraje el ritmo de la trama. En fin, leeré más cositas de la autora (si siguen publicando, que solo hay dos libros por ahora), porque lo he disfrutado pese a todo y su toque me gusta.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
3,000 reviews1,207 followers
September 10, 2021
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 Chinese female author for once in your entire life, read Love In the Fallen City. This book is no doubt the best of the very best which had ever been penned by a Chinese female author. Although I admit some readers might need time to grow fond of Miss Chang's novellas.

Miss Chang's works would also give you much insight on ordinary Chinese people, their everyday affairs and the modern Chinese middle class society in the 1940 era. (PS: Miss Chang was a young lady in her 20s when she published her most successful short stories in the wartime Shanghai)

Many readers might mistake Miss Chang's short stories as 'romance' because most of them deal with relationship between Chinese men and women in the 1940s Shanghai city, and Miss Chang's works shows a heavy influence from Chinese romance classic such as Story Of the Stone (also named Dream In the Red Chamber). But in fact disillusion of romantic love, family relationship and friendship seem to be a more common and dominating theme for Miss Chang's novellas.

The titled act Love In a Fallen City, considered by many as one of Miss Chang's masterpieces, is also one of the few Chang's stories to have a slightly happier ending. The heroine was the divorced daughter from a decaying Shanghai family, her 'love interest' a wealthy playboy who refused to settle down. The author told us: "She was but a selfish woman, he was just a selfish man". She was looking for a way out from her family and a meal ticket, he only wanted good company and a good time in Hong Kong, but as Hong Kong came under Japanese army's attack, their feeling toward each other started to change. In my opinion, Love In a Fallen City is a 'game of love' in every sense, the author successfully created a heroine who was down-to-earth, clever, calculative, fragile and sympathetic at the same time.

Some other reader might also mistake Miss Chang for a feminist author, but please make no mistake here. Although Miss Chang would no doubt agree with many things feminists have to say about gender equality, but readers must bear in mind that many, if not most female characters in Chang's novellas are no feminists. Although many of Chang's female characters are determined and strong-willed, still hardly any of them show awareness or try to fight against the social and cultural inequality. Instead of showing awareness or independence, Miss Chang's female characters display different levels of mental and/or material dependence, on their male counterparts. From time to time, such kind of male and female's relationship is pretty painful to look at, but there's no denying Miss Chang's description of relationship is quite a realistic one.

Therefore it's refreshing to see among the crew of suppressed, struggling female characters, Wang Jiaorui, a married woman in Red Rose, White Rose, who was cruelly abandoned by the lover of her extra-marital affair, eventually raised up from humiliation and became a stronger person in the end.

Miss Chang's works always show a deep understanding on human nature and relationships, which helps to put insight into her novellas and help them raised from mere romance to worthy literature which are still widely admired and recognized decades after her passing.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book165 followers
August 10, 2022
Eileen Chang’s writing is gorgeous--full of intricate little details.

“The moon had just risen; it was dark and yellow, like the scorch mark left on jade-green satin when a burning ash of incense falls into someone’s needlework.”

These are mostly about women’s troubles in 1940’s Hong Kong and Shanghai. The people are unhappy for the most part, but the stories aren’t maudlin. Chang’s characters are strong, but often lost or confused--which made for an interesting combination.

Story collections can be troublesome though, and I didn’t like all of these. At times as I was reading, the characters seemed out of reach. I could grasp them for a short stint, but then, as if they were covered in soap suds, they’d slip through my hands, and by the end of the story, I wasn’t sure who they were or what had happened to them.

In Aloeswood Incense: The First Brazier, a young girl grapples with a bad decision. Chang takes a long time setting this up, making it very atmospheric.

Jasmine Tea was quite compelling. We go inside the mind of a troubled and unpopular young man and see his drives and fantasies.
“She wasn’t a bird in a cage. A bird in a cage, when the cage is opened, can still fly away. She was a bird embroidered onto a screen …”

The title story, Love in a Fallen City, didn’t work so well for me. I just couldn’t connect with the characters. Beautifully written though.

The Golden Cangue was the heaviest. It’s about how oppression leads to destructive tendencies. I think. This involved a big family, and I got a little lost in the names, but the end was dazzling.

In Sealed Off, we are reminded it is war time. An intimate communication occurs during an air raid. Short and stunning. My favorite of the bunch.
“Usually Zongzhen was an accountant, a father, a head of household, a passenger on the tram, a customer in the store, a local citizen. But to this woman who knew nothing about him, he was only and entirely a man.”

Red Rose, White Rose provides a very unique take on adultery. Beautiful, but it left a disturbing aftertaste.
“Her whiteness, like a portable hospital screen, separated her from the bad things in her environment.”

Eileen Chang is a very subtle writer--maybe too much for me. But the beauty of her words and astuteness of her perceptions is a delight I’m glad I experienced.

“A man in love likes to talk; a woman in love changes her ways and doesn’t want to talk. She knows, without even knowing that she knows, that after a man really understands a woman, he won’t love her anymore."
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,489 followers
November 3, 2017
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 agrees to go with him to Hong Kong, where, soon enough, she finds herself ensnared. He casually creates the perception that she's his mistress, so her reputation is done for anyway; she can now keep her honor but only to herself, or become a mistress in fact as well and at least get some temporary financial benefit.

Chang was writing in the 1940s, and what you hear is Victorian novels. The rake is an invention of Victorian prudishness; this sort of scenario was already unfashionable. So the big twist in this one is welcome, and it's the only sort of twist that could really have surprised me: So that makes this a strange and beautiful little story; it's packed with subtlety and ambiguity and it isn't what you thought it was. The Millions says Chang "combined [Joan] Didion’s glamor and sensibility with the terrific wit of Evelyn Waugh. She could, with a single phrase, take you hostage." That doesn't quite ring it for me - I'm not really sure where we got Didion, other than glamour. (I mean, look at her:


Glamour indeed.) But I've only read the one thing. Maybe she's got more up her sleeve.
Profile Image for Inderjit Sanghera.
450 reviews90 followers
March 26, 2016
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 the prejudices and inhibitions which women faced, Chang’s female characters have rich and well-developed emotional lives. Not that all of them are positive-in fact few, if any, of the characters in any of the stories could be considered positive or likeable, instead they all seem to be trapped in their selfishness or self-absorption-as in the case of the ‘Mistresses’ in ‘The Golden Cangue’ or naive and weak as in the case of Weilong in ‘Aloeswood Incense’. Yet, trapped within the narrow confines of a woman’s position in Chinese society at the time, it is easy to understand why the Mistresses-who have little to no outside life outside of their homes are so insular and why Weilong, who has had no chance to encounter romance before meeting the conniving playboy George Qiao can seem to naive and emotionally underdeveloped. Her physical descriptions of the female character brings out the ephemeral beauty they radiate;

“One of Madame Liang’s delicate hands held the banana leaf by the stem. As she twirled around, thin rays of light shone through the slits in the leaf, spinning across her face.”

On the other hand, the male characters, who come from positions of power, often come across as narrow-minded bullies or, in the case of Chaunjing malevolent and deeply insecure. Chang actively tries to explore the more negative aspect of the human condition, her stories tinged with sadness and the sorrows of love and human relationships.

“To young people the moon of thirty years ago should be a reddish-yellow wet stain the size of a copper coin., like a teardrop on a letter...In the old people’s memory the moon of thirty years ago was gay, larger and white than the moon now. But looked back after thirty years of on a rough road, the best of moons is apt to be tinged with sadness.”

Chang writes beautifully, her metaphors, such as the following are unusual and beautiful and obviously influenced by the poets of the Chinese Tang Dynasty;

“The moon had just risen; it was dark and yellow, like the scorch mark left on jade-green satin when a burning ash of incense falls on somebody’s needlework”

In addition to this, Chang is able to give the world in which her stories take place depth, via her painterly descriptions of the natural world;

“It was almost dawn. The flat waning moon got lower, lower and large and by the time it sank, it was like a red gold basin. The sky was a cold bleak crab-shell blue. At the horizon the morning colours were a layer of green, a layer of yellow and a layer of red like a watermelon cut open-the sun was coming up.”

Chang’s stories are visually stunning explorations of the lives of upper and middle class Chinese society, often from the point of view of women and represent a unique synthesis of Chinese poetry and Western narrative styles. She easily stands with other great short story writers of the 20th century, such as Katherine Mansfield, Salinger and Alice Munro and should really be read more widely.
Profile Image for Alberto Delgado.
597 reviews107 followers
March 17, 2018
No suelo leer mucha literatura asiática y china aún menos y lo poco que he leído hasta ahora casi siempre ha sido de japón, pero este pequeño libro me llamó la atención por el título y por estar editado por asteroide que no me suele defraudar. El libro contiene dos relatos en los que la autora nos cuenta dos historias situadas en los años 40 del pasado siglo consiguiendo de forma brillante describir la sociedad china de esa época y su formas sociales. Me ha gustado pero tengo que decir que me ha sabido a poco , tal vez por mi falta de costumbre de leer a autores de ese continente con su peculiar forma de narrar tan diferente al de los autores europeos o americanos que es lo que suelo leer habitualmente y también por que los relatos cortos no me suelen enganchar de la misma forma que las novelas.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews502 followers
September 7, 2014
Currently spinning:
Li Xianglan

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 their poignancy; but at other times, the prose is so heartbreakingly beautiful that it's hard to turn away. I purposely read this collection slowly so I could savor each phrase as it felt (evident even through the translations) that Chang chose each word with such precision. It's a strong collection, but it also feels fragile, delicate, cold, like something that belongs in a museum.
Upon the translucent blue silk umbrella myriad raindrops twinkled blue like a skyful of stars that would follow them about later on the taxi's glistening front window of crushed silver and, as the car ran through red and green lights, a nestful of red stars would fly humming outside the window and a nestful of green stars.
(p224, The Golden Cangue)

There's more of Chang's writing out there, and I hope to one day read more of it. She and her brother were the last in their family and they are both dead now - I don't often wish there was a next generation that might choose to take up writing, but in this case, I did.
Profile Image for Paula.
433 reviews249 followers
March 2, 2020
La familia Bai es de las pocas familias ultraconservadoras que quedan en Shanghai en los convulsos años 40 del siglo XX. Y en esta familia encontramos a la ya no tan joven Bai Liusu, protagonista absoluta del relato (el libro consta de dos relatos, siendo el primero y más largo de ellos el que da título al libro). Divorciada y readmitida a regañadientes en su familia natal, ve como sus hermanos derrochan su dinero para luego echarle en cara que la están manteniendo. La situación para ella es insostenible hasta que, por un giro del destino, el hombre en quien la familia había pensado para casar a su hermana menor se enamora de ella.

Reseña: “Un amor que destruye ciudades”, Eileen Chang

El libro vale muchísimo la pena por esta historia. Tiene momentos tan reales que sacarán una sonrisa a más de un@, está escrito de una manera muy sencilla pero maravillosamente amena. Y se lee en un momento. El segundo relato "Bloqueados" está bien pero sin más, trata sobre un amor muy muy efímero causado por las circunstancias y el aburrimiento. No daba para mucho más y es lo que ha bajado un poco la puntuación general del libro.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,317 reviews976 followers
May 23, 2023
I’m always so fascinated by how titles of works are changed in translation. I find this one particularly interesting, because I think it perfectly encapsulates why Zhang Ailing (张爱玲)’s writing is so difficult to translate contextually.

The original title is 《倾城之恋》, which could be translated character-by-character as “collapse” (倾) + “city” (城) + subordinate particle (之) + “love” (恋). The subordinate particle could signify either a place and/or time, or a cause-and-effect relationship. Technically speaking, divorced from any context, the translation of the title could be interpreted as “love which collapses cities,” or as “love in a collapsing/collapsed city” (read out-of-order as 恋之倾城). Some translations, perhaps most notably the Spanish (“Un amor qui destruye ciudades”), adopt the former; others, perhaps most notably the English (“Love in a Fallen City”), the latter.

But both interpretations of the title lose something in translation. In order to understand precisely what, it’s necessary to look at the origin of the idiom itself. The first two characters, 倾城 (“collapse | city”), have a euphemistic meaning of someone, usually a woman, with extreme beauty. The full chengyu is 《倾国倾城》 (“collapse | nation | collapse | city”), originating from the 《漢書》 (“Han | book”) of the first-to-second centuries CE (Volume VI, 武帝紀). A loosely equivalent idiom in English might be “drop-dead gorgeous”; a literary equivalent in English might be “the face that launched a thousand ships / and burnt the topless towers of Ilium.”

By comparing the central romance of the novel to the well-known saying about a woman’s beauty, Zhang is explicitly describing the relationship as both beautiful and destructive. It’s an elegant title, simple yet nuanced, that is ultimately impossible to capture fully in any other language.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
66 reviews364 followers
December 30, 2015
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 similarities, transcending culture or country. Chang's female characters face issues mainly revolving around a lack of control of their own lives and a need to marry and marry well (and thus fall under the control of someone new). The short stories also explore issues of class, and the difficulty of moving "up" in society during these times. The short stories offer the escapism of romance, but also a lesson on many issues of an older China (and new? I have no idea, but would be most interested to learn more about the changes in China since this time).

At the same time, when reading Chang's book I often wondered whether I grasped everything or whether my vastly different upbringing left me distanced from the messages within it. All the same, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
489 reviews37 followers
July 8, 2019
Eileen Chang's career must be one of the most remarkable of the twentieth century. She began in the forties as the most popular writer in 1940s Shanghai but fled to Hong Kong after the Maoist triumph and began writing in English (there are allegations that her work there, critical of the new regime, was funded by the U.S. Information Service). She came to the United States, working in academic research programs before turning into a recluse. After death, her work returned to acclaim: her translation of the late 19th century novel "The Sing Song Girls of Shanghai" was published and Ang Lee filmed one of her stories, "Lust, Caution". Now now her work sells briskly in both Taiwan and the mainland.
Chang's early work, from which the novellas and stories in this selection are taken, reflect the Shanghai caught between the feudal China it was trying to escape, the corrupt, disorganized China of its present, and the doctrinaire Maoism of the future. Chang's fiction reflects that that failing effort to modernize and its discontents: in "Aloeswood Incense", a country girl's naiveté is exploited by her cosmopolitan aunt; in "Sealed Off", a married man flirts with a young woman; "Jasmine Tea" is the story of a student whose sense of inferiority leads to disaster; in "The Golden Cangue", which is considered a major work of modern Chinese fiction, the arranged marriage and frustrated emotions of a Chinese woman lead her to become a family tyrant, ruining the lives of her children. Even in those stories that end on a marginally more cheerful note, it comes at a terrible price: the title story is of a divorcee and a roué whose negotiation of lust and commitment is wrenched awry by Japanese bombing. Chang's Shanghai is a place where the old, ossified corruption has been transformed by modernity into the new, cosmopolitan corruption, where love is an out-of-reach luxury and the truth is dangerous. Chang's is skill is impressive, and one can only mourn what she might have achieved in the decades of silence caused by changing politics and a provincial American reading public.
Profile Image for Isidora.
262 reviews106 followers
January 8, 2016

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 married (and marry well), separation from another human being is a fact, people lack control of their own lives. Such is life in these stories. Pretty universal, isn’ it? Yet I wonder if I got everything, if I caught all the subtleties. Maybe it is my lack of knowledge about China that keeps me distanced. Maybe it is my warm southern upbringing mixed with my Nordic pragmatic adult reality, which is very different from customs in the book, maybe it is the mystery of Far East. Whatever the reason is, I can’t say that I got the whole picture. On the other hand, I really, really
love the writing. It reminds me of Edith Wharton in its precision and love for details, and sometimes it is so beautiful that it hurts. Four stars I give to the book for the gorgeous writing but Eileen Chung deserves a better reader than I am at the moment.
The last will probably only my fellow ex-YU GR members understand: I didn’t understand men and women in the book in the same way I have never truly understood why Hasanaginica could not pay a visit to the wounded Hasanaga in his white tent.
Profile Image for Louise.
966 reviews295 followers
June 24, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Marisolera.
713 reviews99 followers
February 9, 2018
Qué delicado y sutil era todo lo chino antes de que hubiera una tienda de chinos en cada calle. Y qué difícil ser mujer en esa China tan anticuada.
Profile Image for Christy.
121 reviews32 followers
July 18, 2019
"Hong Kong's defeat had brought Liusu victory. But in this unreasonable world, who can distinguish cause from effect? Who knows which is which? Did a great city fall so that she could be vindicated? Countless thousands of people dead, countless thousands of people suffering ... Liusu didn't feel there was anything subtle about her place in history. She stood up, smiling, and kicked the pan of mosquito-repellant incense under the table.

Those legendary beauties who felled cities and kingdoms were probably all like that."

Two pages into the first novella, Aloeswood Incense, I was reminded of the Original Feminists panel at the Penguin Classics pop-up in London last spring. Paraphrasing rather poorly, but: it really is a special kind of heartache to love so fiercely books that don't love you back. Did that make sense? Stay with me.

Moving on to the titular story, Love in a Fallen City, my heart was so full it was near bursting. Revealing my address on the Internet is perhaps not the wisest course of action; nevertheless, it was so incredibly surreal to see a Penguin Modern Classic take place just a street over from where I live, and celebrating my home city with such palpable, understated lucidity. 🇭🇰

Going back to that paraphrase, younger me was besotted with Austen, Orinda and Gaskell, but in each author was always confronted with a Single Story disconnect (see: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). I wish she had found this collection sooner.

Thank you, Penguin Books and Karen S. Kingsbury for this translation. I can't wait to see our canon continue to broaden.
Profile Image for SilviaG.
336 reviews
June 26, 2019
Este libro está compuesto de dos relatos cortos. El primero de ellos, y que da nombre al libro, nos introduce en la vida de una familia tradicional de Shangai poco antes de la segunda guerra mundial. La autora nos presenta las relaciones entre los diferentes miembros de la familia: los distintos hermanos de la casa y sus mujeres (muy curioso es que no da los nombres de ninguno de ellos, y que los nombra por la posición que ocupan dentro de la familia).
Aparte de los hermanos varones y sus familias, en la casa viven también la Sexta hermana (divorciada, y por ello estigmatizada), y la Séptima Hermana (soltera).
El enamoramiento del pretendiente de esta última de la hermana divorciada, hace que esta última decida trasladarse a Hong Kong para que la relación siga adelante.
Interesante el choque entre la mentalidad tradicional de ella, sus formas de actuar y de relacionarse dentro de la sociedad, y las influencias y modo de vida occidentales de él.
Una historia sencilla, para tomar entre lecturas más profundas
El segundo de los relatos, más corto, nos presenta un momento en la vida de una serie de personajes ubicados en un tranvía en la ciudad de Hong Kong. Sus pensamientos, sus reacciones frente a los otros pasajeros....
Profile Image for Sub_zero.
698 reviews285 followers
July 20, 2016
Eileen Chang es una de las escritoras chinas mejor valoradas del pasado siglo y lo cierto es que leyendo este libro no cuesta averiguar por qué. Chang nos abre a través de este volumen una pequeña ventana al convulso panorama político y social de China durante los albores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, y lo hace por medio de dos historias cargadas de sentimiento y sutileza que describen a la perfección el declive de unos modelos familiares anquilosados en el más ferviente tradicionalismo. Eileen Chang escribe con una gracia innata y una economía de medios que permiten brillar a sus personajes por encima del atronador estallido de las bombas y el derrumbe de sus asideros emocionales. No suele ocurrir que a un libro le hagan falta más páginas de las que tiene, pero el caso de Eileen Chang es excepcional y creo que se podrían haber incorporado algunos más de sus relatos a la edición de Un amor que destruye ciudades. No obstante, este breve aperitivo me ha resultado muy satisfactorio. ¡Quiero más de Eileen Chang!
Profile Image for J.M. Hushour.
Author 6 books208 followers
December 23, 2019
These stories are a rough departure from the previous Chang novel I read, Naked Earth. Whereas that was a more smeary, epic kind of love story, the ones featured here are taut, succinct, and of a less velveteen prose. Some of these selections were some of Chang's earliest writings, and that is reflected, I think, in their frank naivete as to composition: these are safe, terse stories that focus on love and its illusory counterparts among various young women and men in the first part of the 20th century. A recurrent theme is the deterministic horror of the arranged marriage and the vagaries with which older matrons subdue their young female charges, using them as veritable social pawns. Because of the theme, the stories and style tend to be a little more conservative than Earth, but they aren't bad. In fact, their startling and fresh negativity are a fine panacea to the usual sort of utopian love-dross that we're force fed on a nearly daily basis. Love can be had, but it's pretty horrible half the time.
Profile Image for Meghan Fidler.
226 reviews20 followers
September 24, 2011
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 savage wilderness, the woman who comes to power is not, as most people imagine, a wild rose with big, black, burning eyes, stronger than a man, whip in hand, ready to strike at any moment. That's just a fantasy made up by city-fold in need of new stimulation. In the wilderness that is coming, among the shards and rubble, only the painted-lady type from "Hop Hop" opera, this kind of woman, can carry on with simple ease. Her home is everywhere, in any era, in any society."

The double thread of woman-as-seen and woman-as-is [or, perhaps, women-who-can-be] permeate the stories in this text. Most have a dark, if silky, underlining. Indeed, the first two stories are about the coming of age of a young woman, in Aloeswood Incense, and young man, in Jasmine Tea. While detailed with images like "But her heart had slipped away from Liang and Lu as lightly as a dragonfly grazes the water, before carelessly flying off somewhere. Aunt and niece had each invited an invisible guest: since there really were four at table, it was a most companionable meal[.]", the relationships fettered out in all these narratives are best described by the young protagonist from Aloeswood: "Fair? There's no such thing as 'fair' in relationships between people."

Indeed, by highlighting the emotional history of each character alongside future desires, the ability to overcome personal qualms and honestly connect with another person requires a war [literally in Love in a Fallen City]. In this way Chang is a brilliant representation of the ways which family, society and desires of wealth leave almost insurmountable blocks to love. Even between children and parents, as exemplified in Jasmine Tea and The Golden Cangue, these relationships should not be taken as a given. Chang even finds ways to describe the experience of self-crippling in Red Rose, White Rose.

Such descriptions of love as pain leave me wondering how such vivid inspirations were drawn from the author's own experience.
Now I need a biography of Eileen Chang.
Profile Image for tortoise dreams.
955 reviews41 followers
March 20, 2018
A collection of six brilliant novellas and stories by the great Chinese author.

Book Review: Love in a Fallen City is so obviously good that it tests the limits of translated fiction. Written when Chinese culture was changing, traditions were failing, war and revolution threatening. Eileen Chang explored universal human emotions in a time and milieu almost completely foreign to Western readers. That she could present real, credible human beings in such a setting is a testament to her wonderful ability as a writer. These stories make me conclude that any difficulties I had stem more from my cultural ignorance than any flaw in the writing. How much am I missing because I don't know Chinese literary traditions, history, and culture? The themes are of the conflicts of romance and marriage in a changing society, like a latter-day Jane Austen, only with concubines, opium, and inevitable desolation. A world inevitably difficult for women, leading to family trouble and various forms of self-destruction. Each story in Love in a Fallen City is individual, with Chang trying different techniques and approaches. In "The Golden Cangue" she makes the story real through vivid description and fantastic colors: "The sky was a cold bleak crab-shell blue" (a "cangue" is an unmoored pillory). "Sealed Off" still seems modern while being subversive and metaphorical. All the stories delve deep into examination of thoughts, feelings, fears, motivations, emotions. Plot is secondary. The stories in Love in a Fallen City reward slow reading, even re-reading, yet the reader wants to skim ahead to find what happens because we care about these people. Chang packs so much into each scene, each sentence, the reading is almost too rich. [4★]
Profile Image for Chitra Ahanthem.
395 reviews166 followers
January 9, 2019
I am trying to recover from the sheer brilliance of Eileen Chang’s writing: it is evocative in its mood settings, lush with emotions and layered with sub texts that pulls in readers to a world so different and long ago but all the while, making readers relate to the characters, the situations and the time period. ‘Love in a Fallen City and Other Stories’ is a collection of four novellas and two short stories, written by Eileen Chang in the 1940s and set around Hong Kong and Shanghai. Published in 1943, the translated version was only published in 2006. All translations are by Karen S Kingsbury except for The Golden Cangue, which Eileen has translated.

Eileen Chang’s personal background of being born to a more old world father and a modern mother, her subsequent education and move to Hong Kong and then the US in the wake of the Second World War may well be the reason her writings reflect the push and pull between the old and the new: the friction and conflict, the moral obligations versus the need for greed, the sense of a changing past to an unknown and different future, old traditional moorings and fraught present. Each story in this collection addresses the socio cultural turmoil fraught in Hong Kong and Shanghai society with an eerie calm. Each story has characters and situations that keeps the story poised to take startling leaps or lay trapped under the weight of traditions and broken dreams.

Each story bears Chang’s mastery over the art of story telling: the back drops and the mood, the desires of people running awry and the possibilities of which way the story and characters can turn to. I am definitely going to look up more of the author!

Profile Image for Lectora brújula  .
949 reviews70 followers
June 16, 2019
La prosa de esta autora te atrapa sin remedio desde la primera página. Simplemente, te enamora. Me ha encantado cómo escribe y describe esta autora. Tanto que, al final, no sabía si lo que me estaba gustando en realidad era la historia o la prosa, el hecho de que no podía parar de leer.

Si lo pienso detenidamente, la historia es más bien sencilla. Pero las conversaciones entre Liusu y Liuyan son de quitarse el sombrero. Del mismo modo, me maravilla la profundidad con la que trata los pensamientos de Liusu, la manera en que analiza el modo de proceder femenino. Después de todo, es un libro sobre la China de los años 40. Pero me sorprende lo actual que me ha parecido su historia en muchísimos aspectos. Me ha fascinado el retrato que hace de la época y de la mujer en general.

Sin embargo, el final... me ha sabido a poco. Durante su desenlace, el contexto de la historia cambia drásticamente y con ella el destino de los protagonistas. Me quedo con la sensación de no haber comprendido el propósito de las últimas páginas, el modo en que su romance se precipita hacia un final inesperado que, en mi opinión, no puede compararse con todo lo anterior. Definitivamente, he disfrutado mucho más con el cortejo inicial, cuando un par de desconocidos se tanteaban el uno al otro, arriesgándose a perderlo todo.

Esta edición incluye también el relato Bloqueados de la misma autora. Su lectura es bastante entretenida, pero su historia de amor me ha parecido un poco absurda.
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