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To be a writer was the most dangerous profession

13 October 2019

From The Guardian:

Jung Chang was born in China in 1952 and came to Britain in 1978. She is the author of Wild SwansMao: The Unknown Story (with her husband, the historian Jon Halliday) and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 15m copies outside mainland China, where they are banned. Her latest, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, charts the lives of the Soong sisters, who were among the most significant political figures of early 20th-century China.

Your new book explores the dynamic between three women in a family, as did Wild Swans
Wild Swans shows how life was different for each of the women – my grandmother, my mother, me. This book is also about very different lives, but because of political beliefs not generations. Big Sister [Soong Ai-ling] and Little Sister [Soong Mei-ling] were passionately anti-communist, whereas Red Sister [Soong Ching-ling] supported Mao. To start with, I didn’t want to write about the sisters; they were like fairytale [characters]. But while I was doing research, I realised how extraordinary they were, with all their mental agonies, moral dilemmas and heartbreaks.

Did you aim to show how the political is personal?
Yes – the sisters’ personal lives were more intimately connected with politics even than in Wild Swans. These women were right at the centre of Chinese politics – Ching‑ling was married to the father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen. Two of the three sisters miscarried and could never conceive again. Their miscarriages were a direct result of Chinese politics. Of the three sisters, there is just one descendant, living in Texas, who is the son of Ai-ling’s youngest son [Ling C Kung] and Hollywood star Debra Paget, who was Elvis’s lead lady in Love Me Tender.

The book is dedicated to your mother…
My mother inspired me to write Wild Swans and she’s been so supportive of all my work. She lived under Chiang Kai-shek – she was a student activist, fighting his regime – and through Mao’s rule. She’s 88 now and living in China.

Do you visit her?
Not often, because since the publication of my biography of Mao [in 2005] I’ve lost the freedom to travel in China. I’m allowed to go back 15 days a year to see my mother.

How does that feel?
I feel very bad. She’s just come out of hospital. I wish I could just jump on a plane and go and see her. Fortunately, we can Skype. My mother is extraordinary. I still draw strength from her capacity to make me feel that everything is OK, that I should just be myself. She can take anything: glory, danger, hardship.

Link to the rest at The Guardian




Non-Fiction, Non-US

One Comments to “To be a writer was the most dangerous profession”

  1. “To be a writer was the most dangerous profession”

    Still is …

    And even if you write something no one comes after you for today doesn’t mean you’ll still be safe tomorrow or next year/decade.

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