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Han Suyin

(1917– ), The Crippled Tree, A Mortal Flower, Birdless Summer, A Many-Splendoured Thing

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bernard Gutteridge Biography to Hartshill Warwickshire

Chinese writer (naturalized British), born in Sinyang (Henan), China. Han has chronicled her experiences as a Eurasian in China, a medical practitioner in Asia, and a leading expert on contemporary Chinese politics, in a series of autobiographical works which conflate objective reportage and personal memoir. Her best-known works are probably The Crippled Tree (1965), A Mortal Flower (1967), and Birdless Summer (1968). In her novels, beginning with the popular classic A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952), Han has explored the space between documentary realism and subjective lyricism, articulating the concerns of a post-colonial Asian generation and depicting a cultural identity in a state of flux. Novels such as And the Rain My Drink (1956) and The Four Faces (1963), though firmly rooted in the political realities of their time, are highly imaginative experiments employing split perspectives, polyphonic narrative, word-games, and philosophical debates. The innovative The Mountain Is Young (1958) figures a woman in the act of writing her own sexuality; in its preoccupation with text and gender, it is a precursor of the feminist novels of the 1960s. Her collection of essays Tigers and Butterflies (1990) generated heated public debate for its reinterpretation of recent events in China.

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