April 15: Eileen Chang Book Launch

The Hong Kong University Press and the Project for Public Culture at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) will co-host a book launch for Eileen Chang’s English novel, The Fall of the Pagoda《雷峯塔》on April 15, 2010.

Eileen Chang (1920-1995) is now recognized as one of the greatest modern Chinese writers.

However, she has been completely erased from official histories in mainland China due to the political leanings of her first husband, who collaborated with the Japanese when China was occupied.

She was the most popular writer in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, with English and Chinese stories focusing on human frailties rather than nationalist propaganda.

The Fall of the Pagoda is the English-language precursor to her semi-autobiographical novel Little Reunion《小團圓》, which was a number one best-seller in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China in 2009. It is the first of a two-part novel series. The second part is called The Book of Change and will be released in Sept 2010 by HKU Press.

Like Little Reunion, The Fall of the Pagoda bears traces of Chang’s own life. The protagonist, a young girl called Lute, is growing up in Shanghai in the 1930s when the international settlement there was known as the “lonely isle” and was relatively safe from the invading Japanese army.

Lute lives on-and-off with her divorced mother and spinster aunt; the tale is one of family tension and evolves from a comedy of manners into an opium-infused gothic thriller.

At the launch, Dr Roland Soong, the executor of Eileen Chang’s estate, will donate a photocopy of the manuscripts of Eileen Chang’s English novel The Fall of the Pagoda and Long River to HKU and shares his views on Chang’s writing career.

Perry Lam, Editorial Director of Muse, Hong Kong’s leading magazine about arts and culture, will analyse the book.

Last year, Soong set up a HK$1 million scholarship fund at HKU in memory of Eileen Chang, to create opportunities for students with backgrounds similar to hers, so that they could be freed from financial constraints and able to prosper and excel.

The first recipient of this Eileen Chang Memorial Scholarship, Xue Jun Yuan of the Faculty of Arts, will share her thoughts.

This book launch is also supported by HKU Libraries and Faculty of Arts. The Project for Public Culture at the JMSC is sponsored by the Azalea (1972) Endowment Fund.

Date : Thursday, April 15, 2010
Time : 3 pm
Venue : 1/F, Main Library, HKU
Language : English

For enquiries, please contact Velentina Ma at velentinam@hku.hk