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The Song of Everlasting Sorrow

A Novel of Shanghai

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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.

From Publishers Weekly

21 January 2008 – Enamored by Hollywood in prerevolutionary China, Wang Qiyao serendipitously poses for a photograph that is chosen for the cover of Shanghai Life magazine. 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 “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.
The Song of Everlasting Sorrow
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  • 15,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: 22 February 2008
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Print Length: 456 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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