The Autobiography of Ba Jin was originally written in Chinese by the famed 20th century Mainland Chinese author (Ba Jin) in 1934 when he was only 30. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the 1970s, when he was actually forbidden to publish because he was being criticized during the Cultural Revolution.
In this book, he describes his childhood in a large, wealthy Sichuanese clan, including between 80-100 relatives: the grandfather, his two wives, all the adult sons and their wives and children, and eventually the grandchildren, plus dozens of servants
Ba Jin goes on to describe the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the rise of the warlord era, his own flight from the family compound to go to school in France, and his early success as a writer.
He deliberately chose to write his first autobiography in a very simple prose style so that his fans could read it even if they had only attended junior high. He understood that literacy was very hard to attain in those days in China, as many poor families could not afford to send their children to school. (I decided to retain this simple prose style in the translation.)
Ba Jin died at the age of 101 and lived to see his literary reputation rehabilitated. He remains today one of China’s most important 20th century authors.
I am the translator of this book and I wrote a short Introduction in it as well, which sets up the historical background for Ba Jin’s writing as well as his literary importance.
The Story Behind the Story
In order to get permission to translate the book, the head of the publishing house (Dr. Phylis Lan Lin) actually flew to Shanghai, tracked down Ba Jin’s daughter, and received her permission for the translation. Ba Jin’s daughter also very graciously allowed us to select photos from the family’s private album to publish in this book!
To see a YouTube video with background footage from China in the late Qing (pre-1911) to 1930s as well as some of Ba Jin’s family photos, click here: [this will be added as soon as WordPress’s upload video feature is back up! sorry for the delay]
In the meantime, you can copy and paste this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTKn8kstpi8