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Extract: “The Embassy’s China Bride” by Jiu Dan

The Embassy’s China Bride

《大使先生》九丹著

Author: Jiu Dan

Translator: Bruce Humes

Editor: Christopher Cottrell

She’s an aging Chinese female novelist of cult fame banned for her intimate portrayal of women and their men. Her lover De Niro is a wild Italian hell-bent on motorcycles. Her other lover is an ambassador to the Middle Kingdom, and this is the tale of their trysts and catkins in the heart of Beijing.

“I’m a writer, a novelist. I specialize in the study of pain,” she says.

“Enchanté, novelist,” he replies. “I’m a painter.”

Welcome to a true life inspired account of passions set largely in the luxurious and exclusive confines behind an embassy ’s steel gate in Beijing’s Sanlitun district. This is not merely the stark diary of the carnality and spirit of a blacklisted female writer in China. It also delves into the minds of the over-sexed, conflicted European men who populate the booming 21st-century capital, and the dark side of their relations with Chinese women who flock to them like moths to a white-hot light bulb.

An excerpt follows:

Chapter 9

 

1.

It was June 8, 2013. Right under the eyes of the sentry on guard, beneath the long needles of that big pine tree, the Ambassador and I performed our French greeting rites for the second time.

“Bonjour. Comment allez-vous?”

“Je vais bien, merci. Et vous?”

“Moi aussi, merci.”

When his eyes paused on my face, he still displayed the bashfulness of a young man. The knowledgeable recognize this as another signal of enticement. I caught the subtle distinction between the light in his pupils and the temperature of carnal desire as I followed him with a palpable sense of intrigue. After we entered the embassy, as soon as the main gate was shut, all that remained within that huge space were male and female. We could now begin to make up for lost time. Right down to our very nerve endings.

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My Literary Translations (本人的译著) Shanghai Baby (上海宝贝)

“Shanghai Baby” and “Candy”: Back When Young Female Chinese Writers “Wrote with their Bodies”

Controversial new kiss 'n tell novel by forty-something Jiu Dan, who shocked with her "Crows" at the turn of the century
Controversial new kiss ‘n tell novel by forty-something Jiu Dan, who shocked with her “Crows” at the turn of the century

Just finished translating a new semi-autobiographical novella (synopsis), The Embassy’s China Bride (大使先生), by Jiu Dan of Crows fame (乌鸦, 九丹著). This reminded me that at the turn of 21st century, three young Chinese female writers were busy boldly writing about their sexuality, orgasms and all, and being lambasted for it by the critics and Chinese society at large. The trio were Jiu Dan, who chronicled the exploits of “Little Dragon Girls” from China in Singapore; Mian Mian, author of Candy (糖, 棉棉著); and arguably the best known, Wei Hui, who authored the infamous Shanghai Baby (上海宝贝).  They were denigrated as “pretty chick-lit authors” (美女作家) who “write with the lower half of their bodies” (下半身写作), as some engagingly put it.  This designation conveniently allowed the critics to focus on the writers’ lifestyles rather than the content of their writing.

But that wasn’t the case with Zha Jianying, who holds a Ph D. in Comparative Lit from Columbia. Happily, I have just located my translation of her Analyzing Wei Hui and Mian Mian: Hollywood Ice Cream and Shanghai Lollipop. I don’t recall exactly when it was published, but I think I translated it in 2000.

Given that Jiu Dan — now a forty-something — has just launched The Embassy’s China Bride in Taiwan (potentially controversial in its own right), I thought it might be fun to put my translation of Zha Jianying’s critique up on this blog in order to give readers a taste of how these daring female writers were viewed when they first appeared on China’s literary scene. I should mention that Zha Jianying wrote me and roundly criticized me for a host of errors in my rendition. But since she wasn’t specific, I publish it below, warts and all. For a bilingual version with her original, see 卫慧棉棉.