Letters from Qian Zhongshu to be auctioned, Yang Jiang Threatens Lawsuit


A Beijing auction house says it has no plans to withdraw an acclaimed scholar's letters and manuscripts from sale despite protests from his 102-year-old widow and legal experts.

On June 21, the Sungari International Auction Co Ltd is selling 66 letters Qian Zhongshu wrote to a family friend.

The sale also includes the original copy of "Six Chapters from My Life 'Downunder,'" featuring his wife's memoir of their life in Henan Province during the "cultural revolution (1966-1976)," and letters from his daughter, Qian Yuan, to the friend.

Yang Jiang, the writer's widow, said her husband made some controversial remarks in the letters that it would be inappropriate to publish. He insinuates that two famous literary figures, Lu Xun and Mao Dun, were unfaithful to their wives and that a couple, both famous translators, had not interpreted a Chinese classic well.


# 1.   

"...inappropriate to publish"?

Quite the inverse. Sounds like great tattle! And I'm sure there's better stuff yet to come. One read of Fortress Besieged and you know that Qian Zhongshu was not averse to dishing out a bit of biting criticism about hypocrisy.

It's sad to see his wife trying to silence her husband. The poor bloke hardly wrote a word after China's "liberation" in 1949, no doubt fearful he'd get branded a rightist and be hauled up for a series of "struggle sessions."

Bruce, May 31, 2013, 1:49a.m.

# 2.   

Just to be clear, Qian Zhongshu may not have written any fiction after '49, but that doesn't mean he hardly wrote a word. His collected works (钱锺书集 [2001]) weigh in at 13 volumes, including Selected and Annotated Song Dynasty Poetry 宋诗选注 (1958), Seven Patches 七綴集 (1984), and Limited Views 管锥编 (published in five volumes in the nineties).

He also was part of the translation workshops that put the speeches and writings of Mao Zedong in English. But as for being branded a rightist and "struggle sessions": indeed, his Song Poetry was criticized for being insufficiently Marxist, and during the Cultural Revolution the former university professor was made to work as a janitor and his son-in-law killed himself.


Lucas Klein, May 31, 2013, 3:33p.m.

# 3.   

Discussion of the legal issues here:


He raises an interesting point that the rights to buy, sell and display the letters belongs to their lawful owner, but the right to publish the content belongs to the original author (and his heirs).

Still wouldn't prevent anyone from publishing a summary of their contents, though, so it all seems a little 船到江心 to me.

More on Yang Jiang's stewardship of her husband's legacy here:


Nick Stember, June 3, 2013, 2:39a.m.

# 4.   

The supposed recipient of the letters has issued a letter claiming that three of the letters in question are fakes:


I wonder if this means they can be published?

Nick Stember, June 7, 2013, 3:26p.m.

# 5.   

"A couple, both famous translators, had not interpreted a Chinese classic well."

Does the world really need a dead Qian Zhongshu to tell us that Yang Xianyi & Co.'s Hongloumeng is second-rate?

Canaan Morse, June 15, 2013, 3:47a.m.


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