Chen, Ying 1961-
CHEN, Ying 1961-
PERSONAL: Born 1961, in Shanghai, China; immigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1989; two children. Education: Graduated from University of Shanghai, 1983; graduated from Institute of Foreign Languages; McGill University, M.F.A.
CAREER: Author. Worked as a translator and interpreter in China.
AWARDS, HONORS: Quebec-Paris Prize, 1996, and Grand Reader's Prize, Elle Quebec, both for Ingratitude; Prix Alfred-Des Rochers, for Immobile.
Ying wen wen fa jing jie (title means "English Grammar Made Easy"), Mei si chu ban she (Xianggang, China), 1977.
Shuang feng dou long: Dong zu min jian gu shi ji (stories), Guizhou ren min chu ban she (Guiyang, China), 1984.
(With others) Zhongguo lun li si xiang shi (nonfiction), Guizhou ren min chu ban she (Guiyang, China), 1985.
Nian qing jun ren di qi zi (fiction), Tianjin ren min chu ban she (Tianjin, China), 1987.
(Editor, with Jiang Xikang) Chu ci, Chu ci jing hua (poems), Jiao yu chu ban she (Shanghai, China), 1987.
(With Qixian Xu) Zhongguo lun li da ci dian (nonfiction), Liaoning ren min chu ban she (Shenyang, China), 1989.
Li di ben fang, mei di re lian: Zhongguo gu dai lü you shuo sou (travel), Lü you jiao yu chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1990.
(With Han Hu) Zhi wu ti xi bao yi chuan yu zuo wu gai liang, Shu xin chu ban she (Daibei, China), Beijing da xue chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1990.
(With others) Xian dai lun li xue (nonfiction), Chongqing chu ban she (Chongqing, China), 1990.
La mémoire de l'eau (novel; title means "The Memory of Water"), Leméac (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1992.
Les lettres chinoises (novel; title means "Chinese Letters"), 1993, reprinted, Editions Lemeac, 1998.
(With others) Zhong Ri shi jian lun li xue tao lun hui shi lu (nonfiction), She hui ke xue wen xian chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1993.
(With others) Zhongguo chuan tong dao de (nonfiction), Zhongguo ren min da xue chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1995.
(With Xichen Lü) Jing shen zi you yu min zu wen hua: Zhang Junmai xin ru xue lun zhu ji yao (nonfiction), Zhongguo guang bo dian shi chu ban she (Beijing, China), 1995.
L'ingratitude (novel), 1995, translation by Carol Volk published as Ingratitude, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Xichen Lü) Zhang Junmai si xiang yan jiu: xin ru xue (nonfiction), Tianjin ren min chu ban she (Tianjin, China), 1996.
Immobile (novel), Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1998.
Le champ dans la mer (novel), Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2002.
Querelle d'un squelette avec son double (novel), Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2003.
Su Shi zuo pin liang ci yan jiu (nonfiction), Ba Shu shu she (Chengdu, China), 2003.
Quatre mille marches (title means "Four Thousand Marches"), Boréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2004.
Chen's works have been translated into English, Spanish, Italian, and Polish.
SIDELIGHTS: Ying Chen emigrated from Shanghai, China, to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1989 to attend McGill University. In 2003, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Chen has written and/or edited a number of both fiction and nonfiction Chinese-language volumes, as well as a growing number of books in French.
Translated from French into English by Carol Volk, Ingratitude is the first-person narrative of a twenty-five-year-old woman who speaks from beyond the grave. The protagonist, Yan-Zi, is the daughter of a failed and withdrawn academic father and a smothering, controlling mother whom she feels she can escape from and destroy only through her own suicide. Their relationship is followed from the birth of the young woman through her sexual independence. Susie Linfield noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that "although the author was only a young child at the start of the (now-discredited) Cultural Revolution, Yan-Zi's contemptuous feelings toward her professorial father contain traces of that movement's rabid anti-intellectualism." Linfield felt that the difficulty between the daughter and mother "is not specific or psychological but, rather, generic and philosophical. Yan-Zi feels that her very birth is a manifestation of negated agency, for it was her mother—not she—who decided when, where, and, of course, even whether she should exist."
Boston Globe critic Suzanne C. Ryan felt that "in the end, Yan-Zi seems weak, a tiresome, immature complainer, and—as the book's title suggests—ungrateful. A more fully developed central character might leave us wondering about her choice of escape and understanding her pain. Instead, readers are left only with her ingratitude for the life she was given."
Ingratitude is "short, resolute, and emotionally taut," wrote New York Times Book Review contributor Elizabeth Schmidt. Schmidt applauded Chen's characterization of protagonist Yan-Zi, stating that the narrative offers "a sustained philosophical exploration studded with passionate outbursts, a glimpse of a consciousness liberated from family and social expectations." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly claimed that Chen, "with sure-footed prose and a constant movement toward wisdom … restrains her material and lends the work an oddly quiet dignity." Booklist's Mary Ellen Quinn commented that "the writer's minimalist style is the perfect vehicle for the story's emotional intensity." A reviewer for Library Journal expressed similar praise, noting that Ingratitude "is not a dire story but a thoughtful and poetic examination."
Le champ dans la mer is a novel about the futility of life that World Literature Today's Bettina L. Knapp described as "a sequence of poetic, impalpable, unsaid, sorrow-ridden litanies accompanied with imprints of fleeting images." The female protagonist's loss of her father and her mother's unrelenting verbal abuse provide the story's central turmoil. Knapp wrote that "arresting, however, are the interludes focusing on the protagonist's age: time, past, present, and future, to be sure, but time divided into minutes, seconds, like grains of sand melding into one another."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1998, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Ingratitude, p. 1855.
Boston Globe, July 21, 1998, Suzanne C. Ryan, review of Ingratitude, p. E2.
International Examiner, April 30, 1999, Nalini Iyer, review of Ingratitude, p. 8.
Library Journal, December, 1998, review of Ingratitude, p. 188.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 23, 1998, Susie Linfield, review of Ingratitude, p. E2.
New York Times Book Review, August 16, 1998, Elizabeth Schmidt, review of Ingratitude, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1998, review of Ingratitude, p. 61.
Quebec Studies, fall-winter, 2003, Emile Talbot, "Rewriting Les lettres chinoises: The Poetics of Erasure," p. 83.
World Literature Today, spring, 1999, Pierre L. Horn, review of Ingratitude, p. 295; July-September, 2003, Bettina L. Knapp, review of Le champ dans la mer, p. 118.*