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roddy

Taiwanese Writer 'San Mao'

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roddy

I've been given a book to read by a female Taiwanese writer named San Mao (as in 'three' and 'Chairman', can't get the characters to work at the moment). Everybody who's seen that I'm reading it has been vaguely surprised and impressed, and it's come highly recommened, especially the stories set in the Sahara.

However, so far I've found it not all that interesting and am contemplating giving up and returning to Beijing's tabloid newspapers. What am I missing? Any background on the writer (I suspect she's very famous and I should have heard of her already)

Roddy

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batmarj

Here is what my husband ( from Shanghai) says about SanMao:

She killed herself already. I've read almost all her books written in Africa. But not the tour books she wrote when she was traveling around after her husband died in a diving accident. She was famous in 80s. Her books are about her simple life with her husband in Sahara and the local exotic life. To the Chinese, her life there is like "Shi Wai Tao Yuan". If you are not into Chinese philosophy or not into the world created by Tang, Song poets,you should go back to tabloid.

Her name San Mao is from a cartoon character created by Zhang Leping in the 40s in Shanghai. He is a tramp boy with 3 pieces of hair. The author described the life of poor and rich of Shanghai through his eyes. She picked this name because she feels she is homeless too.

another thing about her book is her language. the way she describes things make you feel you are right there with her

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skylee

I read her books when I was in middle school. They were interesting back then because her stories were personal and very exotic. But I think they are quite out-dated now. You don't find the book interesting probably because your own experience is more adventurous than hers.

I think her later books (after her husband died) are crap.

But I remember that she wrote well and reading her books is a good way to learn how to write in Chinese.

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Amstrad

i'm a spanish guy actually living in canary islands (one of the places where she lived for a long time as far as i know) and although i couldn't find any of her books in my languaje, my fascination for this character is rising bit a bit each time i know something new about her when i talk to some of her chinese/taiwanese fans. I think her house is somewhere in this islands and even heared about the possibility of visit it, but she's not popular here ( :( ) and there's no info even about the island or village where she lived with "Hexi" , please if someone could send me some info i would be pleased ! XIEXIE

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daydreamer

I like Sannao (三毛) a lot and have read all of her works.

I especially like her expression, just feel the way she write make me feel very good. And I especially like her works: 撒哈拉的故事 ( stories on Sahala) , 万水千山走遍( about her trip to South America after her husband died) And some other works like 梦里花落知多少 is good too, more moving. I'd say most of her works are worthy reading. 雨季不再来,哭泣的骆驼, 闹学记,

San mao's very special in her days. She have studied in Germany and Spain, and married to her Spanish husband Hexi(荷西). They lived in Sahala and an island in Spain. But after 6 years her husband died. Then she went back to Taiwan and went on traveling and write stories about her trip. She died in 1991 and was considered to killed herself. But there're still people doubt anout it.

But about her house in Spain, I really not clear about it. I only know the Chiense called 丹娜丽芙岛.

Well, anyway, Sanmao's works are pretty good. At least I like them a lot...

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Jose
But about her house in Spain, I really not clear about it. I only know the Chinese called 丹娜丽芙岛.

That's Tenerife Island.

The story of San Mao's life is quite interesting. Apparently, she lived in Madrid, Spanish (now Western) Sahara, and Tenerife.

I only learned about this after reading the posts in this thread, and some information I've found on the net ( http://www.sun.tzc.edu.cn/2003-8/200389210546.htm ). Sadly, she's completely unknown in Spain.

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carlo

As others have mentioned, she wrote in a fluid, intimate way, and her style is very contagious. She was very open-minded for her times, and had seen a lot of the world, which makes her stories more engaging to read (I don't normally enjoy reading books by expat writers who pontificate on a foreign country they hardly understand, or venture to explain cultural differences). Above all I find her stories very easy to relate.

I think she had a son in Spain, too.

Don't know what tabloids you are getting in Beijing Roddy - apart from 凤凰周刊 and a few other magazines, I don't find the average newspaper terribly exciting.

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roddy

Don’t blame you Carlo, neither do I – but when I posted that (almost two years ago) I found the ‘dog bites man’ stories in the tabloid press just about the right level for me.

I never read very much of San Mao, and indeed find it difficult to maintain interest in much reading over the length of an essay or short story at the moment, either in English or Chinese. Good to see that the topic can still provide a source of discussion though, even so long after it was first posted.

Rodddy

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Vivien

I really like San Mao. I read almost all of her books except her movie script, which is also her last book. Her writing style is very unique, specially her travel book. I never read other travel books like hers that is mostly describe her personal feelings and image of a place. I think its very interesting.

I found that she was well known by most Mainland Chinese people who were born in late 70s’ and early 80’s and had good education. I think one reason is because her book is interesting; the other reason—and the most important reason—is that she showed a totally different world when those people are young and lonely (one child policy) and puzzled about their life (they have such a different life experience with their elder generation).

I think she had a son in Spain, too.

She mentioned in her book many times that she want to have a baby with her husband Jose but they never did.

After she dead, a guy wrote a book named “San Mao’s Hypocrisy”. This guy traveled to all the places San Mao did and interviewed people who know San Mao to prove a lot of things San Mao wrote in her book were not true. I think that book is very funny. If any person’s life could be abstracted into books, there must be a lot of versions could show the same person at the same time could be nice as an angle or evil as devil …… San Mao just showed her life she wanted people to know. How could people ask a novel writer put 10 references after each sentence she mentioned about her life while there're so many deceits and cheat in history books? :conf

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otsedom

Sanmao, or Echo for me, did not have a child in Spain. When her husband, Jose María, died, they were living in Gran Canaria, in a place called Playa del Hombre in Telde, exactly in Lope de Vega street.

However, you will not find a museum there. Her books have not been translated, therefore she is not known in Gran Canaria, but just remembered by her friends in the island.

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elina

I like San Mao a lot, for the reason of her writing style: 亲切的/ kind、质朴的/ unpretending、没有雕琢的/ write in a non-ornate style; for the reason of the exotic; for the reason of her personality: 性情中人/ forthright and sincere…

I don’t think she has any child by reading her books. And I think if she did, maybe she would not kill herself at the age of 48 years old, because 为母则强/ you must be strong if you’re a mother (but I’m still not sure which one is stronger: be alive facing all the sufferings or have the courage to suicide? And also not sure if the death is the final extrication?). As being one person alone/ 独身一人, her life is 非常没有规律的/ very out of orderliness in her late years, she often writes articles the whole night, and the next day goes to sleep without eating much food, which does harm to her health. At that time, she also loses her memory from time to time, sometimes even cannot remember where her house is. And with much other illness, I think it’s really painful for her to bear the bad health. I’m sympathetic to her self-murder.

Some of her articles:

http://book.sina.com.cn/nzt/cha/sanmaoxiangce/

http://books.skyhits.com/mingjiafengcai/mingjia/sanmao/sanmao.html

Some songs with lyrics written by her:

http://www.haoting.com/musiclist/ht_fbe59fddf2ae0d13.htm

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elina

My pleasure, glad to see another one who likes San Mao, too.:)

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xavier

I also got to know echo`s story indirectly. My girlfriend is chinese and she loved her stories from her childhood.

I am spanish and in our last trip to my homeland we decided to go to Canary Islands to trace back all the information about Jose.

As you mentioned, some people say he never existed and we wanted to find a light about that.

We went to La Palma (small island 30 minutes by plane from Tenerife) and in the civil register we found the register of Jose`s death in 30 september of 1979.

After that we reached the cemetery of la Palma to discover that, unfortunately, nobody had cared about Jose`s grave. It was hard to see that the tombstone had already disappeared and a person so important for thousands of readers had to be in that anonimity.

They say in China that we only live once but our name can exist for generations. I hope from now more people will pay visit to Jose and thank him for supporting Echo and her writting talent.

P.D here there`s the blogg of my girlfriend where she relates all that happened in a day that for sure she and I will never forget.

http://xaxaeiei.blog.sohu.com/57250190.html

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skylee

Xavier, thanks very much for sharing.

I learnt a lot (about the sahara / spain, about how to write) from Sanmao's books when I was a kid.

PS - wrote a blog about it.

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littleknight23

she took her life as lover often do

I like her

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srfngoc

To Xavier, his grilfriend who posted the blog,

http://xaxaeiei.blog.sohu.com/57250190.html

and all those who really want to know the real San Mao and her works:

Thank you for providing us your journal. I finally got to see what the island looks like and where Jose rests. It's really comforting to know that there are so many people that care about Echo, her husband and of course the impact that both of them left us.

I read all of Echo's works and still continue to read them. I have to say her work is one of the best in all modern Chinese literature. It's a great loss to the Chinese literal world that she left so early.

Not sure if you read Ma Zhong Xin's 'Jie Kai San Mao de Zhen Xiang' (Unmasking the real San Mao) It was very unfortunate and sad to know that Journalim in Taiwan still had a long way to go. Ma provided additional insights to San Mao's stories for the readers, but he prabably did more damage to himself than to herself as to being a noble person who carres a dignified life. Although Ma's essays may appear to be plausible at times, most seemed to be unthorough counter arguements based on his limited research and unconvincing findings. Ma's work would be appropriate for tabloids gossips. And as you know, most gossips were nothing short of gimmicks to increase publication with profit objectives.

I was fortunate to visit 'San Mao Wen Xue Ji Nian Guan" (San Mao Literature Memorial) in 1995. It was established by Cui Hao Ping, a real professional jounalist and a friend of San Mao in her latter years. He maintained the designs/decorations set by San Mao and converted her apartment to be her memorial after her death. In 2003 I was in Taipei and wanted to visit the memorial again. Unfortunately, I was told the memorial no long existed. Cui couldn't keep up with the high maintenance costs and had to sell the apartment. But he said he still kept most of San Mao's collections. Please refer to his book, 'Ni Shi Wo Yong Bu Ji De Meng." (You're dream I can never reach). San Mao's apartment was surely something. I got glimpses of her style and character from well-decorated apartment.

I guess I really appreciate San Mao's work, so that I don't mind sharing my thoughts about her with everyone here. But if any of you have insights about her, please share it with us.

Lastly, San Mao was a true and genuine charater. Although she might have some human imperfections like any of us do, I still think her life and accomplishments deserve one of the highest regard in modern Chinese literal world.

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Lu

Just found this when looking for a little more information on Sanmao. I can imagine that at the time, her writings were something very new: her somewhat unconventional marriage, her living in the desert... but yah, in this age her delight in how weird! and interesting! she is for not getting a traditional wedding and running off to the Sahara seems a bit overdone.

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Geiko

I'm sorry to write in such an old thread, I just wanted to say that I strongly recommend San Mao's novels to people who want to read easier novels (in terms of difficulty, I'd compare her to Yu Hua). I've read one short story and two of her novels, and I'm currently reading the third one. It is true that nowadays her stories aren't something unheard of, but I'm a big fan of expat blogs, especially if set in China or Taiwan, or even in my own country, if written by a foreigner. Reading San Mao is like reading one of these blogs, but set in late 20th century. It's always very interesting to see your own country through the eyes of a foreigner, and this may be one of the reasons why Spaniards who learn Chinese are so fond of her. I can understand that some people find her stories a bit dull, after all her books don't have a typical storyline, they are rather a succession of anecdotes. However, it can be good for busy people who only read for short periods of time, because each anecdote is independent from the others.

So far I've read and recommend 撒哈拉的故事 (in Laayoune, Western Sahara), 稻草人手記 (Canary Islands - don't get scared by the beginning of this book, the first chapter is significantly harder than the rest), 傾城 (short story set in Berlin, before the fall of the wall - this one is just like an expat blog: she went to study German, had problems with noisy roommates...), and currently reading 高原的百合花 (Bolivia).

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