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Six Records of a Life Adrift

Six Records of a Life Adrift

Shen Fu
Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by Graham Sanders

2011 - 176 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-1-60384-199-3
Paper 978-1-60384-198-6
Examination 978-1-60384-198-6

Quick Overview

"Shen Fu’s Six Records of a Life Adrift is the most intimate document at our disposal of private life in late imperial China. Graham Sanders now provides us with a new translation for the 21st century, which is not only well researched but also highly readable." —Wilt Idema, Harvard University


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 "[A] joy to read. Sanders has given students, teachers and scholars a new and authoritative translation of Shen Fu's classic that deserves to be adopted in any course on late imperial or modern Chinese literature, history and culture. This translation follows Shen Fu's elegant, meandering sentences and phrasing, giving a sense of the author's individual style and the flavor of prose written in classical Chinese. Sanders also corrects many errors that have appeared in previous translations. 
    "The translator provides a clear and accessible introduction, succinctly placing the work in its historical context. The footnotes patiently explain the wide range of literary allusions and references to historical events found in Shen Fu's Records; their clarity and accuracy are a testament to the translator's erudition and the time that was surely spent ensuring that each note adds to the reader's understanding of the text.
     "Additionally, modern maps, a table containing Shen Fu's associates and family tree, and list of historical figures mentioned in a book also server to make the book even more accessible.
     "The quality of this edition leads this reader to think about how it might be usefully included in courses on twentieth-century China, because the history of the discovery, reprinting, and reception of the Six Records makes the book a very modern text."
      —Michael Gibbs Hill, University of South Carolina, in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


"Shen Fu’s Six Records of a Life Adrift is the most intimate document at our disposal of private life in late imperial China. Graham Sanders now provides us with a new translation for the 21st century, which is not only well researched but also highly readable."
      —Wilt Idema, Harvard University

 "This delightful nineteenth-century narrative, which has charmed Chinese audiences for over a century, has finally found its match in this new translation by Graham Sanders. His rendering in English comes from a deep understanding of the language, style and artistic structure of the original, and is enriched by informative notes explaining the differences between Chinese and Western culture. What this unforgettable confessional prose has to show us about human nature is clearly expressed."
      —Milena Dole┼żelová-Velingerová, University of Toronto

 "Shen Fu’s subtle yet emotional account of his love-match with Chen Yun, their relations with his family, his pastimes with friends and courtesans, his travels far and near, his frustrations with work and his obsessions at play illustrate the life of a Qing lower gentryman in a patriarchal family, but at the same time reveal human complexities that require the nuancing of simplistic over-generalizations about class, gender, tradition, Confucian family values, and the like.
     "This lively new translation—the first in nearly thirty years—clarifies certain passages, helpfully adds section breaks, and provides explanatory footnotes. Also included are a family tree, a chronology, and other useful reference materials. The result is an edition that will enhance discussions in a variety of courses, from Chinese and world history to gender and family history."
      —Sarah Schneewind, University of California at San Diego

 "Sanders's translation is the first to appear in almost thirty years, and it is the richest and most comprehensive of the three other English-language versions that are available. . . . Nearly every page in Sanders's translation has explanatory footnotes (including half of the first page), but more important, nearly every page also brings metaphors and imagery that will delight readers versed in the Western literary tradition.
    "The book could be used in any number of courses, in addition to being a required reading for courses on imperial China. Six Records of a Life Adrift would be appropriate for gender studies courses, world literature, comparative literature, and creative writing. The brilliance of Shen Fu as a writer and Graham Sanders as a translator is nowhere more evident than in the scene describing Chen Yun's final moments. After alluding to her untimely demise several times, Shen Fu presents her passing in a beautiful passage of lachrymose prose. His grief is real. We experience his sadness."
    —China Review International

"A beautifully crafted translation that provides ample commentary and appropriate aids to reading this intriguing text. The translator's sensitivity to the emotional world, as well as his insights into the contextual background of the author's autobiographical account makes this a definitive translation for broader use and in the undergraduate classroom."
    —Erica Brindley, Penn State University


About the Author:

Graham Sanders is Associate Professor of classical Chinese literature at the University of Toronto.