ISBN 7-02-004257-0Author: Ch'ien Chung-shu / Translated by Jeanne Kelly and Nathan K. MaoPaperback 695 Pages / 700mm X 1000mm 1/16 People's Literature Press Beijing February 2004
Fortress Besieged (Wei Cheng)
Satiric and urbane, Fortress Besieged, first published in China in 1947, is a comedy of manners that to recall Trollope's title speaks to us of the way we live now. The novel's hapless picaresque hero returns from abroad on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War. On the basis of his bogus degree, Fang Hung-chien obtains a teaching post at the newly established San-lu University, and the effete pseudo-intellectuals he encounters in academia become the butt of Ch'ien Chung-shu's merciless satire.
The theme of besiegement figures prominently throughout this highly structured and polished work, nowhere more tellingly than in the final section which deals with marriage and this disintegration, as traditional expectations clash headlong with the values and pressures of modern life.
Both comically exuberant and morally sophisticated, Fortress Besieged is, in the words of the eminent critic C.T.Hsia, "the most delightful and carefully wrought novel in modern Chinese literature." It has been translated into French and Russian, but this version (the first in English) has the full endorsement and support of the author.
CH'IEN CHUNG-SHU was born into a literary family in Wuhsi, Kiangsu province in 1910. He spent two years at Oxford, where he majored in English and also became conversant with Latin and modern European literatures. He taught at a number of Chinese universities before the Revolution and remained on Mainland after the Communist victory. In 1974 it was rumored that Ch'ien had died, but he is alive and well, with his reputation "resurrected" after the fall of the Gang of Four. Since 1952 he has been a senior fellow of the Institute of Literature in the Academy of Social Sciences, and has recently visited the United States as member of a Chinese academic delegation.
JEANNE KELLY has translated many Chinese short stories and scholarly articles.
NATHAN K. MAO, Professor of English, Shippensburg State College, is translator of Twelve Towers and Cold Nights, and author of Li Yu and Pa Chin.