Thursday, August 13, 2015

Han Suyin: Chinese Author to be Remembered

    Han Suyin was a famous writer of Chinese origin. This was her pen name. Her real name was Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chow.She was  probably born in 1916 or 1917 and passed away on 2 November, 2012 in Lausanne, Switzerland. She was a Eurasian as her mother was from Europe and father Chinese. She studied medicine in Europe and married twice. Unfortunately two earlier husbands died, one in the civil war in China in 1947 and the second in the Korean war in 1952.
    In between she took to writing  and wrote 5 novels. Her novel "  Love is a many splendored thing" is her most  famous novel. Her novel "The mountain is young"  is my favorite. Its a little torrid book with explicit love scenes. It was one of the favourite books of Pandit Nehru.
    Han Suyin was invited to attend the coronation of the King of Nepal in 1956. She spent a fair amount of time in Nepal and met an Indian army officer named Colonel Vincent Ratnaswamy. They fell in love and her novel "The Mountain is young " has a autobiographical streak in it.
    The novel is set in Nepal and has the backdrop of the coronation of the king. In the novel the main character is one Unni Menon who loves  a Eurasian girl. Its a lovely love story and once it was published  it became a best seller. The novel firmly put Han Suyin as one of the top writers of the English language. The novel has been reprinted many times and the last reprint was in 1999 by Rupa and Co from Delhi.
    The love between Han Suyin and Colonel Vincent  resulted in marriage. The couple for sometime shifted to Bangalore and then shifted to Hongkong. They shifted after a few years to Switzerland and Han Suyin spent the rest of her life there.  Colonel Vincent pased away in 2003. They were married till the end, though Colonel Ratnaswamy and Han Suyin lived the last few years apart.
    Han Suyin was a wonderful writer and I love her novels. She will be remembered as a novelist as well as a crusader for women.  She was also respected by the Communist government of China and had an open visa issued to her. She visited China every year and was always welcomed there. By marrying an Indian army Colonel, she has an India connection as well. She deserves her place in the sun as one of the great writers of the 20th century.