7 December 2007

Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution, 1979

This short novel was begun in the early 1950s but not completed and published until 1979, and Ang Lee’s film won several trophies at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards. Set in occupied Shanghai during the Second World War it’s the story of a young student’s role in the entrapment of a Chinese minister who is a sympathiser of the occupying Japanese. The turbulent Chinese politics of the time always formed the backdrop to Chang’s novels and was never usually the story itself, so the political theme makes Lust, Caution an unusual story for her. It’s a convincingly told tale, and one in which the motives of all the characters are morally dubious. Chang was one of the most popular writers in China during her life but is largely out of print now in the English-speaking world, though Penguin are releasing a few titles in their Modern Classics series which, on the strength of this, will certainly be worth reading.   PY

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