The Resurrection of Pearl Buck
Pearl Buck’s chronicles of everyday life in China won her millions of readers and a Nobel Prize. They also won her the scorn of highbrow Western critics and the venom of China’s Communist leaders. Now her adopted land is rediscovering the work of this woman once denounced as a cultural enemy.
As Pearl Buck neared her 80th birthday, she became obsessed by the idea of returning to China. It was the early 1970s, and Buck, the American author who had won the Nobel Prize for her books set in China, had not set foot there herself in nearly four decades, as the country was transformed by the Japanese invasion, civil war, and the triumph of communism.
Although she had been born in West Virginia in 1892 while her missionary parents were home on leave, China was the country where she had grown up, first married, and written her most famous novel, The Good Earth (1931). Chinese was her first language, the one in which she mentally composed sentences before putting them to paper in English. China had provided much of the material for many of her 70-odd books, mostly novels but also plays, short fiction, children’s stories, biographies of her parents, essays, and poetry. China had inspired her humanitarian work. And it was in China that her adored mother, her father, two brothers, and two sisters lay buried.
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Sheila Melvin, a writer and journalist, is coauthor, with her husband, Jindong Cai, of Rhapsody in Red: How Western Classical Music Became Chinese (2004). She divides her time between Palo Alto, California, and Beijing.more from this author >>