Discipline: Literature – fiction

Eileen Chang

Discipline: Literature – fiction
MacDowell fellowships: 1956, 1957

Eileen Chang (1920-1995) was a popular novelist and short story writer. She was born in Shanghai and studied literature at the University of Hong Kong. However, the Japanese attack on the city in 1941 forced her to return to occupied Shanghai, where she was able to publish the stories and essays (collected in two volumes, Romances, 1944, and Written on Water, 1945) that soon made her a literary star. Chang immigrated to the United States in 1955, where she continued writing. During her residency at MacDowell she met her future husband, screenwriter Ferdinand Reyher. In 1969, she obtained a position as a researcher at Berkeley.

Two novels, both commissioned in the 1950s by the United States Information Service as anti-Communist propaganda, The Rice Sprout Song and Naked Earth (the latter now available as an NYRB Classic), were followed by a third, The Rouge of the North (1967), which expanded on her celebrated early novella The Golden Cangue. Chang continued writing essays and stories in Chinese as well scripts for Hong Kong films, and began work on an English translation of the famous Qing novel The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai. In spite of the tremendous revival of interest in her work that began in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1970s, and that later spread to mainland China, Chang became ever more reclusive as she grew older. In 2006, NYRB Classics published Love in a Fallen City, an original collection of her short fiction. The following year, Lust, Caution, a film adaptation of Chang’s 1979 novella, directed by Ang Lee, was released.