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Overview


Set in post-World War II Shanghai, The Song of Everlasting Sorrow follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the longtong, the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai's working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges ...
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The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai

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Overview


Set in post-World War II Shanghai, The Song of Everlasting Sorrow follows the adventures of Wang Qiyao, a girl born of the longtong, the crowded, labyrinthine alleys of Shanghai's working-class neighborhoods.

Infatuated with the glitz and glamour of 1940s Hollywood, Wang Qiyao seeks fame in the Miss Shanghai beauty pageant, and this fleeting moment of stardom becomes the pinnacle of her life. During the next four decades, Wang Qiyao indulges in the decadent pleasures of pre-liberation Shanghai, secretly playing mahjong during the antirightist Movement and exchanging lovers on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Surviving the vicissitudes of modern Chinese history, Wang Qiyao emerges in the 1980s as a purveyor of "old Shanghai"—a living incarnation of a new, commodified nostalgia that prizes splendor and sophistication—only to become embroiled in a tragedy that echoes the pulpy Hollywood noirs of her youth.

From the violent persecution of communism to the liberalism and openness of the age of reform, this sorrowful tale of old China versus new, of perseverance in the face of adversity, is a timeless rendering of our never-ending quest for transformation and beauty.
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Editorial Reviews

Francine Prose
…[an] extraordinary novel …it is Wang Anyi's complex and penetrating portrayal of her heroine that best displays her gifts as a novelist. Michael Berry and Susan Chang Egan's graceful translation…helps us understand why Wang Anyi is one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the Chinese-speaking world…The novel is particularly illuminating and incisive on the subject of female friendship, on what draws girls and women together and then drives them apart.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Enamored by Hollywood in prerevolutionary China, Wang Qiyao serendipitously poses for a photograph that is chosen for the cover of Shanghai Lifemagazine. Dubbed "A Proper Young Lady of Shanghai," she wins second runner-up in a 1946 beauty pageant and is soon mistress to a wealthy benefactor. After his death, marriage in her fallen state is out of the question, and Wang Qiyao embarks on a lonely, decades-long journey through Shanghai's myriad longtang, or "vast neighborhoods inside enclosed alleys." In a beautifully constructed cyclical narrative from Wang Anyi (Baotown), fashion serves as the lens through which Wang Qiyao analyzes her descent from fleeting fame to desperate anonymity. Charting her fortunes becomes a metaphor for a vanished way of Shanghai life in this ingenious tale: friends and lovers come and go, Maoist China undergoes immense social and political changes (none explicitly detailed), yet Wang Qiyao finds that "[t]here are only so many designs, and their rotation is what defines fashion. Only sometimes a cycle drags on too long." As the novel builds to its tragic conclusion, the manner in which character types and events recur against the city's shifting backdrop is impossible to forget. (Mar.)

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New York Times Book Review
Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan's graceful translation... helps us understand why Wang Anyi is one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the Chinese-speaking world.

— Francine Prose

Taipei Times
A genuine classic.

— Bradley Winterton

Historical Novels Review
Spellbinding, colorful... a page-turner right up to the end.

— Helene Williams

World Literature Today

Certain to take a preeminent place in China's literary canon... The Song of Everlasting Sorrow is at last available in a masterful English translation.

Robin Visser

Wang Anyi attempts to encapsulate the essence of her metropolis amid decades of twentieth-century vicissitudes. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai is unquestionably the most acclaimed novel by one of China's most well-known authors. Michael Berry's translation is executed with care and is true to the original style.

New York Times Book Review - Francine Prose

Michael Berry and Susan Chan Egan's graceful translation... helps us understand why Wang Anyi is one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the Chinese-speaking world.

Taipei Times - Bradley Winterton

A genuine classic.

Historical Novels Review - Helene Williams

Spellbinding, colorful... a page-turner right up to the end.

Library Journal
This epic novel spans four decades in the life of Wang Qiyao, who seeks to escape life in Shanghai's crowded alleyways by entering the Miss Shanghai pageant.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231513098
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 2/22/2008
  • Series: Weatherhead Books on Asia
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 456
  • File size: 665 KB

Meet the Author


Wang Anyi began her career as a writer in 1978. Her books in English include Lapse of Time, Love in a Small Town, Love on a Barren Mountain, Brocade Valley, and the novel Baotown, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year award. She currently lives in Shanghai and is a professor of Chinese literature at Fudan University.

Michael Berry is associate professor of contemporary Chinese cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the translator of several novels and the author of Jia Zhangke's Hometown Trilogy, A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film, and Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers.

Susan Chan Egan, an independent scholar, is the author of A Latterday Confucian: Reminiscences of William Hung 1893-1980 and coauthor of A Pragmatist and His Free Spirit: The Half-Century Romance of Hu Shi and Edith Clifford Williams.

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Table of Contents

Translators' Notes and AcknowledgmentsThe Song of Everlasting SorrowAfterword, by Michael Berry

Columbia University Press

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