The Sea of Regret: Two Turn-of-the-Century Chinese Romantic Novels

August 9, 2017 - Comment

Published within a few months of each other in 1906, “Stones in the Sea” by Fu Lin and “The Sea of Regret” by Wu Jianren take opposite sides in the heated turn-of-the-century debate over the place of romantic and sexual love and passion in Chinese life. “The Sea of Regret”, which came to be the

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Published within a few months of each other in 1906, “Stones in the Sea” by Fu Lin and “The Sea of Regret” by Wu Jianren take opposite sides in the heated turn-of-the-century debate over the place of romantic and sexual love and passion in Chinese life. “The Sea of Regret”, which came to be the most popular short novel of this period, is a response to the less well-known but equally significant “Stones in the Sea”. Taken together, this pair of novels provides a fascinating portrait of early twentieth-century China’s struggle with its own cultural, ethical, and sexual redefinition. Patrick Hanan’s masterful translation brings together these novels — neither of which has before been available in any foreign language — in a single volume, with a valuable introduction and notes. | “A tour de force in the art of translation. ‘The Sea of Regret’ is not only accurate, but, in the typical Hanan fashion, it is succinct and elegant as well. Impeccable work from an eminent scholar of Chinese fiction and a master of prose.” –Lee Ou-fan Lee, UCLA | “These two short novels are especially interesting for their insights into the debate in educated circles concerning marriage, family, and the status of women. The chaos in China caused by the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 is also vividly rendered in both works. Readers will find not only intrinsic interest but also historical relevance in these early modern novels.” –Michael S. Duke, University of British Columbia | Patrick Hanan is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of “The Chinese Vernacular Story” and “The Invention of Li Yu” and the translator of “The Carnal Prayer Mat” and “A Tower for the Summer Heat”.

Comments

Gromer says:

Gorgeous turn-of-the-century prose I never read Chinese novels, let alone turn-of-the-century ones. They sound so boring! But because I discovered Patrick Hanan, the wittiest, most elegant translator of Chinese-to-English texts I’ve ever read, I decided to buy every single Patrick Hanan book that was ever published. Two reasons: (1) Hanan seems to always select Chinese texts that disrupt stereotypes of the Chinese, which is darned fascinating; (2) In addition to being a skilled linguist and translator, he’s a brilliant writer…

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