FECUND 热风 Julie Curates China

Julie curates China热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau


Lust, Caution


 Chinese novelist Eileen Chang 张爱玲 died on 8 September 1995 in Los Angeles. Can we celebrate someone’s death? I decided we can because she is among the few modern Chinese writers I read nowadays. She sits next to Lu Xun on my literary altar, only more forgotten.

Hollywood director Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution 色、戒is based on her short story published in 1979 in Taiwan (see photo). Two themes characterise Chang’s work: pre-Communist “East meets West”daily life and her cosmopolitism. In Lust, Caution, Lee showed his love for both.

Chang’s writing seems the natural outcome of her upbringing. Her father was the picture of decadent late-imperial aristocracy, and her mother was very much the kind of Westernized “New Woman” that embraced cultural reform. She was educated and independent, leaving her family behind for several years to travel Europe and to ski in the Swiss Alps. When Chang’s parents divorced when she was ten, she grew up in a contradictory world of pre-Communist Shanghai, split between her mother’s modern apartment and the opium-filled den of her father’s traditional aristocratic house. China’s cultural transition is evident and extensive in her razor-sharp observations.

Most of her literary works were written during the middle decades of the twentieth century, a period of intense political upheaval. The Qing dynasty was overtaken by a revolutionary republican democracy in 1911, nine years before the writer was born. However, this democracy collapsed into warlordism within five years, and the 1920s through 1940s were marked by increasingly violent power struggles to control and reshape China. These struggles culminated in the bloody Sino-Japanese War and the civil war between right-wing Nationalists and the Chinese Communist Party. While many prominent writers responded to these conflicts by turning radically left-wing and writing about ideals such as Nation, Revolution, Progress, Chang focused more on the mundane interactions and relationships between men and women. Lust, Caution is all the more extraordinary in that it is one of her few works where the politics drive the story. It seems to be Chang’s response to her critics who claimed that her treatment of war was too trivial.

Below I have selected five quotes from her books to share with my readers:

  • If a woman can’t win love and admiration from men, she won’t be respected by women either.
  • When you laugh, you laugh together with the entire world. When you cry, you cry alone.
  • Photography is like the hard shell of life. As time passes, you eat the inside and only you know how it really tastes. The empty shell is what’s left behind to show people.
  • I love money because I never have known what harm it can bring. Nobody has taught me about its evil, I have only learned how good money is.
  • Humanity is the most interesting book there is and you never finish reading.

julie 超辣

Determined dreamer. Published author in English, Dutch, and Chinese. Former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captain turned artist entrepreneur and screenwriter. She survived the Cultural Revolution as a baby. In the 1990’s she left for London and has lived and worked in free exile ever since. Her work covers a wide spectrum. As journalist, she creates content covering a range of topics on contemporary China from an insider perspective. In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, she hosted a 5-episode talk show TV China for Netherlands’ national broadcaster and discussed China’s media landscape with media stars and experts from both China and the Netherlands. From 2013-2016 she was the Editor-in-Chief of the English/Chinese bilingual magazine XiN 新, focusing on today’s China shaped by consumerism. O’yang contributes a weekly column to Hoje Macau on contemporary Chinese art and culture. Her English language book titles include: Butterfly, a historical crime love story set in the Second World War. Since May 2016 O'yang has been collaborating with Flemish photographer Filip Naudts on an art project, which has resulted in the photo novel The Picture of Dorya Glenn. Julie works from the Netherlands and Denmark.

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