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Chasing the Modern: The Twentieth-Century Life of Poet Xu Zhimo

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At the height of his literary prowess, Xu Zhimo was the most famous living poet in all of China. With his round spectacles and aristocratic profile, Xu had a face that became as iconic as his poetry. During his short life, he claimed an illustrious place in the literary canon, redefining Chinese poetry and leading literature into the modern era. But while the brilliant and charismatic Xu may have seemed to live a charmed existence, he also faced near poverty, profound heartbreak, the opium addiction of his second wife, and a fiery death at age thirty-five. In this lyrical and engaging biography, Xu's story is poignantly told by his grandson, Tony Hsu.

Born in 1897, Xu came of age during the early twentieth century, a period when China was struggling to find its own identity-an era of nation building, violent political revolutions, and passionate cultural exchange with the West. In Chasing the Modern, we follow the odyssey of Xu, who at twenty-one, boards a ship from Shanghai to America, leaving behind his family-the dutiful and intelligent Zhang Youyi, the wife he had wed in an arranged marriage and their infant son-and his beloved homeland to pursue a Western education. In America, along with the other elite young men of his generation, he studies at Columbia University in New York. Shifting allegiances and crossing the Atlantic to continue his education in England, Xu then joins the avant-garde philosophers and writers at the storied King's College, Cambridge University, and socializes with the London literati, exchanging ideas, bons mots and champagne toasts with the Bloomsbury Group.

It is at Cambridge that Xu experiences an awakening-to literature, to love, and to life itself-ultimately choosing to devote himself to poetry, pursuing the first divorce in Chinese history, and chasing an eternal love with the entrancing, intelligent women he believes embody modern ideals, among them Lin Huiyin, who would ultimately rise as China's first female architect, and Lu Xiaoman, a lauded opera singer, painter and author. Returning to China after four years abroad, Xu rises to national fame, first as the interpreter for Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, then as a visionary poet, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, as a symbol of early twentieth century China. A man who defined his era, Xu made choices in life and love that surprised and sometimes shocked a nation that was watching-and following-his every move.



ISBN-13: 9780578818030

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Tony Hsu

Publication Date: 12-08-2020

Pages: 232

Product Dimensions: 9.21h x 6.14w x 0.63d

Hsu, Tony S.: - Tony S. Hsu is the grandson of Xu Zhimo. He was born in Shanghai shortly after the end of World War II. As a toddler, Hsu and his sisters were raised by his grandmother, Zhang Youyi, while his parents pursued their studies in America. In the late 1940s, Zhang and her young charges left China amidst national political turmoil and settled in Hong Kong. At age six, Hsu and his sisters emigrated to New York to join their parents and began a new life in America. Hsu ultimately received his BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Michigan and a Ph.D in Applied Physics from Yale University. He has been an executive for several technology companies. Hsu lives with his fashion designer wife, Lily Pao Hsu. Their filmmaker daughter, Alexandra lives in San Francisco, California. Chasing the Modern is his first book.