Ch'ien Chung-shu John Scott - Essay

John Scott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ch'ien Chung-shu's Fortress Besieged was first published in China in 1947, and notwithstanding its popularity and deserved acclaim it has not appeared in print since the 1949 Revolution. It remains the last of the few winners China has entered in the great novel race this century…. This sardonic black comedy has only recently been translated into any Western language, and it is the case that even the best of pre-1949, and certainly all post-revolutionary literature, in China remains pretty well outside the international main stream of the age. But Fortress Besieged can in one sense be considered a pace-maker, since it is the first and only Chinese contribution to that familiar genre, the novel of the anti-hero, and not merely because the protagonist, Fang Hung-chien, at one memorable juncture, delivers a disastrously embarrassing public address…. The ineffectual and dishonest, but sympathetic pseudo-graduate Fang armed with his utterly phoney Ph.D. returns from Europe to his homeland just in time for the 1937 Japanese invasion. Though the shadow of war and its consequent social crack-up remains a constant threat throughout the action of the novel it never amounts to more than a subdued if subtle accompaniment to the hero's own personal débâcle with the ludicrous progress of his love life leading to the final collapse of his short-lived marriage. Thus the state of matrimony and not beleaguered 1937 China is the real besieged...

(The entire section is 477 words.)