New York: The John Day Company, 1930. First edition. Hardcover. This is a signed first edition of the author’s first novel, intriguingly steeped in Chinese history, literature, and philosophy though written in English for a notional American audience by a Chinese expatriate then living in Paris. The author’s signature is inked in a neat, diminutive hand on the front free endpaper recto. Condition of this signed copy approaches very good overall. The navy cloth binding remains square and tight with sharp corners, though overall dulled with minor wear to extremities and a few trivial blemishes to the upper rear cover. The contents are age-toned but substantially clean, with light spotting primarily confined to the endpapers and untrimmed fore edges. The sole previous ownership mark is the author’s signature, though a scar on the front pastedown indicates that a bookplate was once present.
“In addition to writing books on Chinese history and philosophy,” writer and translator Lin Yutang (1895-1976) “made highly acclaimed English translations of Chinese literary masterpieces” that helped popularize China’s literature in the West. Moment in Peking, his first novel, is set in China spanning 1900 to 1939 and covering the Boxer Uprising and other struggles of the time, and ending at the start of the Sino-Japanese war. In 1936 Pearl S. Buck convinced Yutang to go to New York where he lived for two years before leaving for Paris, where he wrote this book. To prepare to write this book in English, Yutang reportedly translated passages from the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber and followed its example in how to reveal characters through setting, clothing, and dialect. A chronological sequel, A Leaf in the Storm, does not follow the same characters but starts at the same moment of history that this book ends with, and explores the war with the Japanese. Yutang’s popularity waned over time, but his work and life history have been rediscovered and given serious academic consideration. Moment in Peking has been adapted for television three times, most recently in 2014. Item #005930