Han Suyin, a prolific Eurasian author who generated controversy with her hagiographic view of China’s Cultural Revolution and who may be most remembered for her best-selling semi-autobiographical novel that inspired the Hollywood melodrama “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” died Nov. 2 at her home in Lausanne, Switzerland.
She was 95. Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Yung Mei Tang.
The China-born Han worked many years as a physician, but her writing provided her most enduring, complicated and provocative legacy. She published almost two dozen novels, nonfiction books and memoirs — and countless essays for mainstream newspapers and magazines — that were often set against the backdrop of historical and generational upheaval in Asia.
Her career as a writer spanned World War II, China’s revolution, the Korean War, the rise of communism and the decline of colonialism in East Asia, and included panegyric biographies of Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong and Chou Enlai.
In her writing and frequent lecturing, most of which took place during the Cold War, Dr. Han cultivated an image of someone capable of unraveling and demystifying for Western audiences the political and social developments of the East.
At Beijing’s Yenching University in the mid-1930s, she studied alongside many who formed the first and second generations of China’s Communist Party leaders.
“Every year the school used to put on the ‘Messiah,’ and it’s very funny when I look at some of the people I know in China today, important Communist Party members, and to remember them sitting there in the choir with me singing the ‘Messiah’ is quite wonderful,” she told The Washington Post in 1982.
Many of her books drew heavily from her own dramatic biography. Several of her works, including “My House Has Two Doors” (1980), explored her upbringing and the pressures and conflicts of her half-Chinese and half-Belgian heritage. Her first book, “Destination Chungking” (1942), set against the Sino-Japanese war, was about her first marriage, to a general in the Chinese nationalist army who was killed in combat.
She became an international literary sensation with “A Many-Splendoured Thing,” published in 1952 when she was a widow raising a daughter and working at a Hong Kong clinic.
The book was based on her romance with Ian Morrison, a married war correspondent who in 1950 became one of the first journalists killed in the Korean War. The tale of forbidden love, likened by reviewers to “Romeo and Juliet,” was also politically topical, mixing revolution and romance with news making headlines in Hong Kong, China and Korea.
The 1955 film version, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” featured two of the biggest stars in Hollywood, William Holden and Jennifer Jones. It also spawned an Oscar-winning, if maudlin, theme song by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster. A daytime TV soap opera, based on the film, ran on CBS in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Han Suyin encompasses three generations of audiences in China,” Hailin Zhou, a professor at Villanova University’s Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies, wrote in an e-mail. “She was a writer at the crossroads of cultures, past and present; individual and nation; and different ideologies.”
Today, Zhou wrote, “her novels are often listed as emblems of multiculturalism, postmodernism, and post-colonialism.” Dr. Han’s professional life as a doctor took her to Malaya during the Emergency, the name given to the conflict throughout the 1950s between military forces in the British protectorate and a communist guerrilla insurgency. A committed anti-imperialist whose books conveyed a far-left partisanship, she was nonetheless married at the time to a police officer in the British special forces.
As a prominent writer who traveled to China while it was largely walled off from the world during the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Han was widely seen as having failed to describe the horrors of Mao’s disastrous economic and political schemes.
In the 1970s, Dr. Han called the Cultural Revolution, in which millions perished or were purged, a “creative historical undertaking,” a phrase for which she was pilloried as the extent of the suffering became more widely known.
She was slow to acknowledge publicly the atrocities committed in the name of revolution and stopped short of criticizing Mao. She devoted two laudatory volumes to his life and place in China’s history, “The Morning Deluge” (1972) and “Wind in the Tower” (1976).
“I'm not going to change one sentence, one word,” she told the New York Times in 1988 when asked whether she wished to change language in the books. “Who knows that in 50 years time much of what I said will not be proved right? I don’t understand why people have to justify themselves. I’m not saying I’m right. I’m not saying I’m wrong either. I just stand behind my work.”
Dr. Han was born Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou on Sept. 12, 1917, in Sinyang, a city in China’s eastern Henan province. She later changed her middle name to Elizabeth, the name she preferred.
Her parents met in Brussels, where her Chinese father studied engineering. Her mother, a Belgian, returned with him to China, where he built railways.
Starting in the late 1930s, Dr. Han studied medicine in Belgium and in London, when she married Tang Pao-huang, a military attache to Chiang Kai-Shek. They adopted a daughter, Yung Mei.
In 1947, Tang was killed in Manchuria while fighting communists. Dr. Han completed her medical studies at the University of London, migrated to Hong Kong with her daughter in 1949, and completed her residency in obstetrics.
In 1952, Dr. Han married Leon Comber, a British police officer. The couple moved to Malaya, where she worked in a hospital and opened a tuberculosis clinic. Her years in Malaya were covered in her book “And the Rain My Drink” (1956), which a Time magazine reviewer drubbed for its stock portraits of whites and a tendency to gloss over the unsavory traits of the communists.
“Despite this tendency to load her political dice,” the review said, “Han Suyin can convey the heat, the squalor, and flux of Asiatic life with expert touches.”
The marriage to Comber ended in divorce, and in the late 1950s, Dr. Han married Vincent Ratnaswamy, an Indian military engineer. They lived together in Bangalore, Hong Kong and Lausanne before his death in 2003.
Besides Yung Mei Tang of New York, survivors include a sister, a granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.
Dr. Han quit medicine in 1963, preferring to lecture, travel and write full time. If some reviewers and interviewers found Dr. Han and her books confounding and perhaps troubling, she seemed perfectly happy to live with that exasperation.
“I write as an Asian, with all the pent-up emotions of my people,” she said in the early 1950s. “What I say will annoy many people who prefer the more conventional myths brought back by writers on the Orient. All I can say is that I try to tell the truth. Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.”The song that became a classic ....
Mick, from Dublin , appeared on 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'
and towards the end of the program had already won 500,000 euros.
"You've done very well so far," said Chris Tarrant, the show's presenter, "but for a million euros you've only got one life-line left, phone a friend. Everything is riding on this question. Will you go for it?" "Sure," said Mick. "I'll have a go!"
"Which of the following birds does NOT build its own nest? a) Sparrow
"I haven't got a clue." said Mick, ''So I'll use my last lifeline and phone my friend Paddy back home in Dublin ..."
Mick called up his mate, and told him the circumstances and repeated the question to him. "Dat's simple it's a cuckoo." said Paddy. "Are you sure?"
"I'm very sure."
Mick hung up the phone and told Chris, "I'll go with cuckoo as my answer."
"Is that your final answer?" asked Chris.
"Dat it is."
There was a long, long pause and then the presenter screamed, "Cuckoo is the correct answer! Mick, you've won 1 million euros!"
The next night, Mick invited Paddy to their local pub to buy him a drink. "Tell me, Paddy? How in Heaven's name did you knowit was da Cuckoo that doesn't build its own nest?" “Because he lives in a clock, you fool! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STUPID THINGS MEN WOULD DO
Spyed and groom
A wedding ended in disaster this summer when the groom was spotted having sex with a waitress at his own reception.
He was caught in the act by his new father-in-law, who immediately ordered guests to leave the no-longerhappy occasion in Feldkirch, Austria.
But the poor bride had to wait six months before she could divorce her philandering new husband in accordance with Austrian law.
ANDREW Kellet was branded Britain's Dumbest Criminal after posting 80 videos of himself on YouTube engaged in illegal activities.
Clips included one of him driving off from a petrol station without paying at 140mph - he helpfully filmed the car's speedometer - and another of him taking drugs.
In 2008 the Leeds magistrate dealing with his case said: "He handed us the evidence against him on a plate.
"If more criminals were as obliging, the city would be even safer."
Mask of sorrow
CLUELESS crooks Matthew McNelly and Joey Miller decided to do away with traditional disguises when they set out to raid an apartment in October 2009.
Instead they decided to mask their appearance by scribbling on their skin with a black marker pen.
But the pen ran out and they could only obscure part of their faces.
They were, of course, very easy to track down and were later charged with the burglary.
"The black faces gave them right away," said Iowa police chief Jeff Cayler.
"I have to assume the officers were kind of laughing at the time."
NIGEL Kirk forgot to obey the first rule of using a nail gun - remove all obstacles first.
In the middle of a tricky floorboarding job, the Staffordshire man slipped on a towel and fired a 5cm nail straight into his heart.
Astonishingly, he didn't realise what he'd done until he tried to take off his jumper but couldn't because the nail was pinning it to his chest.
One ambulance and a three-hour op later, medical staff revealed he'd missed an artery by millimetres.
IN 2008, hopeless romantic Lefkos Hajji decided to ask his girlfriend to marry him by hiding a £6,000 diamond ring in a helium balloon. No sooner had the Londoner got the florist to place the ring inside than a gust of wind blew the balloon away.
Hajji frantically chased the runaway sparkler in his car for two hours - but in vain.
The florist said: "I thought that he was taking a risk. I said, 'I hope you hold on to it'."
..I thee fed
HIDING an engagement ring in your future fiancee's food is not the best of ideas, as one poor Chinese chap found to his cost.
He secreted a £500 ring in a muffin - which his girlfriend promptly ate.
Doctors had to perform endoscopic surgery to remove the item.
The lovestruck fool admitted: "I'm not sure she will ever feel very comfortable wearing it."
My bet-ter half
IT'S generally advised that a person should not bet more than he can afford to lose - a rule Andrei Karpov, from Murmansk, Russia, ignored when he put up his wife Tatania as a stake in a card game.
Unfortunately he lost, and when his opponent Sergey Brodov later turned up to claim his winnings, Karpov's wife was so angry she divorced her husband.
In an ironic twist, she chose Brodov as her second husband. "I am very happy with him," she said. "Even if he did 'win' me in a poker game."
Cast iron excuse
A MAN of 29 pulled a gun on his mother when she refused to do his ironing for him.
Police were called to the house in Georgia, USA, after she managed to escape following six hours of imprisonment. Her son told police that he had done it because ironing was "woman's work".
Nine, nine, ninny
HUBERT Lee Credit needed medical attention after being beaten up last December - but instead of ringing for an ambulance he decided to steal one instead.
Florida police tracked it down using a GPS device in the vehicle, and arrested him.
Credit, 39, said: "I saw the ambulance, and I was going to drive myself to the hospital."
A MAN was left with a permanent erection after having the words "Borow be salaamat" or "Good luck with your journeys" tattooed on his penis in Iran.
Doctors later advised: "Based on your unique case, we discourage penile tattooing."
Ps and queues
BRIAN Butler put civility ahead of criminality when he queued up to rob a petrol station in Sunderland.
He was captured on CCTV calmly waiting his turn behind customers waiting to pay for petrol.
His good manners didn't end there. When he reached the front of the queue he quietly handed the cashier a note saying he had "a Stanley knife and a hammer".
Unfortunately, while he had remembered to wear camouflage, he hadn't remembered to pick up his weapons. He was later identified from the station's security tapes and was jailed for six years.
Ire and ice
A MAN who tried to melt ice on his porch using a blow torch set fire to his apartment and the two above, causing £15,000 worth of damage.
Local fire chiefs in Massachusetts said his mistake had been to hook the blow torch up to a 20lb propane cylinder.
Twenty-five firemen were called in to tackle the inferno in December 2008.