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Six Records of a Life Adrift


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Graham Sanders is Associate Professor of classical Chinese literature at the University of Toronto.


Shen Fu's Six Records of a Life Adrift is the most intimate document at our disposal of private life in late imperial China. Graham Sanders now provides us with a new translation for the 21st century, which is not only well researched but also highly readable. --Wilt Idema, Harvard University
This delightful nineteenth-century narrative, which has charmed Chinese audiences for over a century, has finally found its match in this new translation by Graham Sanders. His rendering in English comes from a deep understanding of the language, style and artistic structure of the original, and is enriched by informative notes explaining the differences between Chinese and Western culture. What this unforgettable confessional prose has to show us about human nature is clearly expressed. --Milena Dolezelova-Velingerova, University of Toronto
Shen Fu's subtle yet emotional account of his love-match with Chen Yun, their relations with his family, his pastimes with friends and courtesans, his travels far and near, his frustrations with work and his obsessions at play illustrate the life of a Qing lower gentryman in a patriarchal family, but at the same time reveal human complexities that require the nuancing of simplistic over-generalizations about class, gender, tradition, Confucian family values, and the like. This lively new translation--the first in nearly thirty years--clarifies certain passages, helpfully adds section breaks, and provides explanatory footnotes. Also included are a family tree, a chronology, and other useful reference materials. The result is an edition that will enhance discussions in a variety of courses, from Chinese and world history to gender and family history. --Sarah Schneewind, University of California at San Diego
"Sanders' translation is the first to appear in almost thirty years, and it is the richest and most comprehensive of the three other English-language versions that are available. . . . Nearly every page in Sanders' translation has explanatory footnotes (including half of the first page), but more important, nearly every page also brings metaphors and imagery that will delight readers versed in the Western literary tradition. The book could be used in any number of courses, in addition to being a required reading for courses on imperial China. Six Records of a Life Adrift would be appropriate for gender studies courses, world literature, comparative literature, and creative writing. The brilliance of Shen Fu as a writer and Graham Sanders as a translator is nowhere more evident than in the scene describing Chen Yun' final moments. After alluding to her untimely demise several times, Shen Fu presents her passing in a beautiful passage of lachrymose prose. His grief is real. We experience his sadness." -- China Review International

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