- Fortress Besieged
infobox Book |
name = Fortress Besieged
language = Chinese
media_type = Print (Hardback &
isbn = [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Booksources&isbn=9901549507 9901549507]
"Fortress Besieged" (
Simplified Chinese: 围城; Traditional Chinese: 圍城; Pinyin: wéi chéng) was written by Qian Zhongshu, published in 1947, and is widely considered as one of the masterpieces of twentieth century Chinese literature. The novel is a humorous tale about middle-class Chinese society in the 1940s. It is also one of the most well-known contemporary Chinese novels in China, and was made into a popular television series in the early 1990s.
Origin and History
The book was begun while
Qian Zhongshuand wife Yang Jiangwere living in Shanghaiduring the Japanese occupation. According to Yang Jiang, the successful production of several of her plays inspired Qian to write a full length novel.
The novel was begun in 1944, and completed in 1946. Much of the characters and plot are taken from the experiences of Qian and Yang abroad and in China. For example, the opening scene at sea reflects their journey from France to China onboard the ship Athos II.
The title is based on a French
:"Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out. "
The novel is known for its acerbic asides, such as describing one young lady in the following way:
:"At first, they called her "truth" because "the truth is naked". But then, she's not actually completely naked. So they amended it to "partial-truth"."
The novel was published in Shanghai in 1947. The second edition was published 1948. The third edition in 1949. After the Communist Revolution, the book was not printed again in mainland China until 1980. In the mean time, it was also banned in Taiwan because of its satire of the Nationalist government.
The novel has been translated into many languages. These include the Russian version which appeared in 1979, the American English version in 1979; and the German version in 1982.
Set in the 1930s it follows the misadventures of Fang Hung-chien (Fang Hongjian), a bumbling everyman who wastes his time studying abroad, and secures a fake degree when learning he has run out of money and must return home to
China. The first part of the novelis set on the boat home, where Fang courts two young ladies.
Fang was the son of a country gentleman. A marriage had been arranged for him while at university, but the intended wife died before he could see her. After completing a degree in Chinese literature, he went to Europe where he studied at several universities without pursuing a degree. After being pressured by his family, he bought a fake degree from an American Irishman.
The year was 1937, and Fang was returning to China from Europe along with other graduating Chinese students. One fellow traveller was Miss Su, in her late 20s. She is quite pretty in a thin and pallid style, but her choosy attitude towards men means she is still unattached and getting slightly desperate. Another young lady on board was Miss Bao, who tended towards the tanned and voluptuous. Fang pursued Miss Bao with some success during the voyage. However, when the boat reached Hong Kong, Miss Bao disembarked into the embrace of her fiancee, a middle-aged, balding doctor, and Fang realised he had been used.
Fang then became more intimate with Miss Su. However, after they disembarked at Shanghai, Fang became occupied with finding a job, and attending matchmaking sessions arranged by his parents and former in-laws. After one failed attempt, Fang decided to contact Miss Su. While visiting her he also met her cousin, Miss Tang, and Miss Su's suitor, Zhao Xinmei.
The second section follows his securing a teaching post at a new university - where his fake credentials are used to keep him in line, and in the third part, it centers on his disastrous marriage. The novel ends with his wife leaving him, while he listens to a clock chiming.
Since its re-publication in 1980 in mainland China, "Fortress Besieged" has become nationally famous. Part of its popularity grew from its popular
televisionseries adaptation of 1990 and later radioseries adaptation.
Aspects of the novel have entered the Chinese idiomatic lexicon. For example, "Carleton University", from which the novel's character obtained his PhD paper, is used as an idiom meaning an illegitimate degree qualification or academic institution. Likewise, the novel's title, deriving from the French proverb, has given rise to a similar proverb in Chinese.
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