The Song of Everlasting Sorrow

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow Cover

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow

A Novel of Shanghai

By Wang Anyi; Michael Berry (Translator); Susan Chan Egan (Translator)

Columbia University Press, Hardcover, 9780231143424, 440pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2008


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.

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

Michael Berry is associate professor of contemporary Chinese cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Susan Chan Egan is an independent scholar based in Santa Barbara, California.