Han Suyin’s Cold War fictions: Life-writing, intimacy, and decolonization

Tickell, Alex (2021). Han Suyin’s Cold War fictions: Life-writing, intimacy, and decolonization. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 57(2) pp. 241–254.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2021.1894684


This article asks how the distinctive use of life-writing and focus on inter-ethnic intimacy in Han Suyin’s popular middlebrow romance fictions A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952) and The Mountain is Young (1958) constitute a critique of decolonization and align with her radical politics as a spokesperson for Bandung-era non-alignment. The author suggests that in these two major fictions of the Cold War era Han reprises what Christina Klein identifies as a familiar “Cold War Orientalist” trope of inter-ethnic love but repurposes it so that the genre’s characteristic objectifying treatment of (largely passive) Asian women desired by western men is reversed. In the process Han’s tactical re-imagining of inter-ethnic romance provides a vehicle for political satire, feminist self-realization, and figuring of new postcolonial/decolonial identities and subject positions.

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