A hundred years of Han Suyin

Aamer Hussein in Dawn:

Aamer Hussein

She was born in September 1916, she thought; history claims that she was born in Henan, China, in 1917, and named Zhou Kuanghu. Either way, Han Suyin would have been 100 this year. She died in 2012 and there were many obituaries that marked her passing, mostly remembering her role as a leading apologist for Mao Zedong’s regime. Her once-celebrated autobiographical and historical works, gradually sidelined in the two decades that followed the end of the Cultural Revolution, had been called unreadable and rudely forgotten in the new millennium.

The only one of her many works of fiction, history, and autobiography to be reprinted as a modern classic in English — ironically, in Singapore, where she was once persona non grata for her left-wing beliefs and her increasingly pro-China stance — is And the Rain My Drink, a novel about the guerrilla war in what was then called Malaya. Published in 1956 at the height of the events it depicted, it didn’t quite topple the British Empire, but certainly did serve as the proverbial thorn in the side of colonial officialdom.

Han arrived in Malaysia in 1952, already lauded as the author of A Many-Splendoured Thing, the bestselling autobiographical account of her time in Hong Kong just after WWII.

More here.