Eileen Chang

Literary Birthday – 30 September – Eileen Chang

Eileen Chang was born 30 September 1920 and died 8 September 1995.

Nine Quotes

  1. True immersion in the atmosphere of life usually takes place spontaneously. It isn’t something that can be forced or willed into being. All a writer can strive for is to live with integrity.
  2. A real writer can only really write about what he himself thinks. He will write about what he can write; what a writer should or should not write is ultimately beside the point.
  3. People who like to write literature usually concentrate on the uplifting and dynamic aspects of life and neglect those that are placid and static, though the latter is the ground of the former. That is, they concentrate for the most part on struggle and neglect the harmonious aspects of life. In reality, people only engage in struggle in order to attain harmony.
  4. There are very few people, after all, who are either extremely perverse or extremely enlightened. Times as weighty as these do not allow for easy enlightenment . . . people have gone on living their lives and even their madness seems measured.
  5. The only authority I have is to give expression to the inherent strength of my characters and not to fabricate strength on their behalf . . . although they are merely weak and ordinary people and cannot aspire to heroic feats of strength, it is precisely these ordinary people who can serve more accurately than heroes as a measure of the times.
  6. In the evening mist, the borders of Shanghai were gently rising and falling in the distance, resembling layered mountain peaks, although there are no mountains surrounding our city. I pondered the fate of many people, including myself. I began to have a melancholy sense of what we call destiny. Such intimations normally connote self-involvement and self-pity, but I now think that they might suggest something altogether more broad. When the peace and security of the future finally do arrive, they will no longer belong to us; at the present moment each of us can only strive to comfort ourselves.
  7. Most young Chinese are aware very young … our novels are more explicit than yours.
  8. Between memory and reality there are awkward discrepancies…
  9. Life is an extravagant gown, riddled with lice.

Eileen Chang was an influential modern Chinese writer. Her fiction deals with tensions between women and men in love and she is well-known for her portrayal of everyday life in 1940s Shanghai and Japanese-occupied Hong Kong. She is the author of Love in a Fallen City. In 2007, Ang Lee directed a film adaptation of her novella Lust, Caution.

Source for image:


北角英皇道兰心照相馆, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

source for quotes: The Quarterly Conversation


 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 30th September 2017