Ah Cheng selling his father’s books

Sometimes biographical sequences (more or less authentic) can form kind of apocryphal chapters in the bibliography of a writer.
I am thinking of continuous retellings (sometimes by the authors themselves) of important occurrences in the formative period of the writer’s life, such as Lu Xun’s epiphany when watching a film of Japanese soldier beheading seemingly passive Chinese. (See preface to 呐喊 Call to Arms 1923)

Just now setting out on my new project of exploring the writings of Ah Cheng (Zhong Ahcheng 钟阿城) I discovered a similar story in Bonnie S. McDougall’s afterword to the English compilation of the three king-novellas (Ah Cheng: The King of Trees. New Directions publishing Corp. New York: 2010):

As his academic father is deemed a rightist and sent to be reformed, the young Ah Cheng is given the task of selling the father’s library to support the left mother and five children left behind. Before selling a bundle of books however, he reads all of them through and thus, at the age of 7, begins his acquaintance with literature.

This information is be no means necessary in order to appreciate the works of Ah Cheng, nor have I any way of proving or falsifying its authenticity. To me it is just a supplementary, or as I said apocryphal, chapter in the work of Ah Cheng, evocative of a specific period in Chinese history as well as of that fatal first encounter with the world of books, which I think many of us can recognize.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s