About The Book
Wu Wei had spent almost her entire life preparing to write this novel, but when she was about to set her pen to paper, she lost her mind.
Like many young Chinese from her generation, she was attracted to the magic city of Beijing on graduation from university. An unsuccessful marriage has left her with a legitimate daughter named Chanyue and an illegitimate one named Fengdan. Having a child like Feng Dan, caused her to be constantly abused by her husband and slurred by her neighbors. Wu Wei met a high official by the name of Hu Bingchen in one of the May Seventh Cadres Schools, a kind of institution that was more like a labor camp for intellectuals, set up in the 1960s.
When Hu regained his freedom and reputation, both of them moved to Beijing and their relationship formally began. Born to a reputed family and emerged from the ordeal test of revolution, Hu seemed to be extremely capable, courageous and upright in the political arena. He was even regarded as a rare talent that appeared only once every five hundred years. Hu’s marriage was not a harmonious one, but he somehow managed to give the public an impression that he and his wife were a perfect match. In spite of being married, Hu still wanted to seek extramarital relationships with other women and his way of doing so was to have women come to him of their own accord. After being seduced by Hu on many occasions, Wu Wei wrote her first love letter to him, asking Hu to make clear his intentions in plain terms. However, Hu, after turning this matter over in his mind, went so far as to pass this letter to his wife, Bai Fan, who had also been a scheming old hand in revolution. Together this couple wrote a letter that made Wu Wei’s life miserable for almost an entire year.
In dire depression, Wu Wei started writing and finally succeeded in becoming a writer. Writing had helped her to release herself from the emotional tangle with Hu. On seeing Wu Wei’s novels and her name on newspapers, Hu’s admiration for her started to increase and had a slip of paper sent to her. Blinded by love, Wu Wei hurled herself to Hu like a moth flying to a burning candle. Meanwhile, another high official by the name of Tong Dalei, a colleague of Hu, also tried very hard to win Wu Wei’s love but what he got from her was only a cold shoulder.
When Wu Wei had won a very important literary award, Hu could no longer repress his feelings for her. While examining his confused life in the past and backed by senses regained, he came to Wu Wei at long last. They fell in desperate love and had their first kiss. In a transport of joy, Hu felt as if he was reliving his first love, which was just as exciting as doing underground work before liberation. Though successfully winning her love, Hu met a major setback in his political career. In comforting him, Wu Wei said, “I love who you are, not your position.” Wu Wei truly meant what she said. On thinking that Hu’s official career was hopeless, she was feeling somewhat happier in spite of herself.
Wu Wei was born in 1937, when the first shot of Sino-Japanese war was fired at Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing. In a time of national calamity, her father left his family behind and went with the former Chinese Northeast Army to fight the invaders. Having gone through untold sufferings, Wu Wei’s mother Ye Zilian managed to bring her up. Hardship had made this mother and daughter inseparable. Ye Zilian had been strongly against her daughter’s love, but to no avail.
Life had been hard for Ye Zilian as always. In order to scratch up a little money to keep life going, Ye even went as far as to sell her own blood. However, the now successful writer Wu Wei spent all her money in pleasing Hu, leaving not a penny to her mother and daughters. Her daughter Chanyue thought that her mother, in essence, was no better than a slave, despite her effort in seeking love from one man and another. And in this regard her grandmother was no exception. Men had taken advantage of their spirit, body and emotions. She, however, was determined not to be like them.
When confronted by his wife Bai Fan with his unfaithful conduct, Hu peacefully accepted everything. But he shamelessly retorted, “Haven’t you done this sort of thing before?” Irritated, Bai Fan threatened to expose his misconduct to the Communist Party leaders. At her words, the helpless Hu fell to his knees immediately. Still raging with anger, Bai slapped him in the face six times, which sent him to the hospital emergency room because of a sudden strike of myocardial infarction. Ironically, Hu’s political opponent felt quite relieved on hearing his misfortune and it also saved the efforts of relevant parties in making a difficult choice for striking a balance in the personnel deployment.
Barely having recovered from his disease, Hu could not wait to send for Wu Wei, who, in spite of personal risks, did show up in the hospital. Unexpectedly, the most important words she heard from Hu’s mouth were “I miss you.” At that moment, Bai Fan broke in. Burning with anger, she threw a punch at Wu Wei. Having acquired equilibrium, Wu Wei hoped Hu would put in a word for her and explain to Bai Fan that it was he who sent for her. However, Hu turned out to be a speechless coward.
In preparing to defend her marriage, Bai Fan had summoned allies, consisting of 38 housewives. When Hu had learnt that Wu Wei was completely on her own in her confrontation with Bai Fan, he started to have pity for her. Finally, with no turning back, he decided to launch a lawsuit and divorce Bai Fan. Wu Wei was deeply moved by what Hu had done. However, in the court Hu put up several contrasting faces, which disillusioned Wu Wei and brought her great pain. Hu even left a copy of the letter he wrote with Bai Fan in the latter’s hand, claiming that he was totally innocent. This letter proved to be nothing less than Wu Wei’s undoing.
While Bai Fan was rejoicing in her success, she did not know that Hu had sent a letter of complaint against her to a leader of the central government, which stripped her of all her chances of regaining any sort of reputation. Wu Wei’s love for Hu had gradually faded after witnessing Hu’s scheming and immoral conduct again and again. When Hu talked to Wu Wei about setting a date for their marriage, Wu Wei replied, “Can’t we just live together, without getting married?” Infuriated, Hu threw a string of insults at Wu Wei, “Now I can see why people said you are a bad woman. Aren’t you making a fool of me?”
Wu Wei wanted to say to him that she would make it crystal clear that she didn’t want to marry him if he was still a government minister, young and without political opponents waiting to see his downfall, but she didn’t utter a word. She was tired.
In the end, Wu Wei consented to marrying Hu. So she went to her mother for household register that was needed in acquiring official marriage certificate. Seeing her mother, she said but one sentence, “I love you mom.” Then she burst into tears in her mother’s arms. Wu Wei had been tortured by a sense of guilt for not being able to repay the love of her mother, who had gone through so many hardships in bringing her up.
Although at times Hu had revealed to Wu Wei that Bai Fan had been treating him harshly, he started to feel pity for Bai Fan once he married Wu Wei, now that Bai Fan had turned out to be a loser. Thinking about the virtues of his ex-wife and the time they used to have, Hu began to blame the collapse his previous marriage on Wu Wei.
Furong, Hu’s daughter, who used to be on very good terms with Wu Wei before their marriage, now became a trigger for their quarrellings. After all, Wu Wei was the one that robbed her mother of her father. Wu Wei was busy writing and making money to support her new family. Hu never shared his wages with her, but she had to help Hu to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. Besides, Wu Wei had a college daughter to support. One day when Hu was in hospital, accompanied by Wu Wei, he gave the keys of his house to his daughter Furong and her lover, without telling Wu Wei about it. Without prior knowledge, Wu Wei sent a servant home to make chicken soup for Hu and the servant happened to find Furong and her lover, making out in bed. From then on, Furong regarded Wu Wei as her mortal enemy.
When Hu found he could not get what he desired from Wu Wei both in and out of bed, he started to feel, for all his efforts, what he had now was nothing better than a copy of his ex-wife. In a quarrel between them not long after their marriage, Hu burst out sharply, “You know what? People said you are a slut and that I must have fallen victim to your schemes to marry such an unworthy woman like you. What a fool I have been.” Hu’s words shattered Wu Wei’s heart.
Although Hu cannot have two lawful wives, in actuality he did not break away from either of them. Hu regarded his marriage with Wu Wei as a betrayal to his past life and his class. Deep in her heart, Wu Wei was deeply tortured.
Hu demanded a divorce many times but Wu Wei never consented. Right before Hu decided to divorce Wu Wei, he still thought of making the most out of his marriage by asking Wu Wei to type up his “so called” masterpiece on the computer. In Wu Wei’s mind, his work was nothing more than a compilation of papers published by other researches and did not amount to much. However, Hu took his work very seriously and wanted to have it published abroad with the help of Wu Wei’s American son-in-law.
While onboard a plane and thinking about how selfish Hu was, Wu Wei broke the floppy disk with Hu’s work on it into pieces and threw it into a trash bag. Having done that, she started laughing by herself. Finally, Wu Wei agreed to put an end to their marriage. On that day when Wu Wei gave her consent, they did not quarrel anymore and even felt as if they had gone back to the time of their courtship.
Wu Wei fell in love with Hu when she was 33 years old and now she was over 60. Barely a month elapsed after the divorce when Hu remarried his ex-wife Bai Fan. However, having lived together with Wu Wei for ten years, he was not used to living with Bai Fan anymore. Once again, it was like he was having two women at the same time.
On an anniversary of Wu Wei’s mother’s death, Hu came to visit her again. Looking into his eyes, Wu Wei thought she had seen her father who had deserted both her mother and herself years ago. Involuntarily, she murmured, “father.” Then peacefully, her mind sunk into oblivion, saying nothing and knowing no one. She was committed to a mental hospital.
On an unknown day, Wu Wei died. While sorting out her belongings, people could neither find a phone number nor an address of any friend or relative, not even a single slip of paper with any writing on it. Emphatically, she denied pity and forgiveness from this mortal world.