Pearl S. Buck, the American writer who fell in love with China

Although Pearl S. Buck’s writing career was long disparaged by much of literary criticism, which came to describe her work as simple, less than ten years had passed since the publication of her first successful novel, East wind and West windwhen the American writer received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. Members of the Swedish academy were fascinated by S. Buck’s talent for manipulating words and creating beautiful literary landscapes.

In her acceptance speech, Pearl S. Buck said that it was during her long stay in China that she learned what it really meant to be a novelist. For the author, to write was to talk about people and her deepest interior, as evidenced by her long and extensive work, which includes various literary genres, including poetry and children’s stories. But the life of Pearl S. Buck was not easy. The writer would have a dramatic experience with motherhood that would mark her for life. From that moment on, he decided to dedicate his life to helping others, especially the most disadvantaged, and especially children.

China, the great love of Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S Buckborn Pearl Sydenstricker, saw the light on June 26, 1892 in the town of Hillsboro, Virginia, and was the fourth of seven children of a couple of Presbyterian missionaries. When she was five months old, her family went to China, where she would spend much of her life. there the girl received a basic education on the part of his mother and his tutor, a man they called Mr. Kung, who taught him the classics of Chinese literature, the theories of Confucius and the history of the Asian country. Likewise, both his nanny and the family cook used to tell him tales, stories and anecdotes about Chinese customs.

In China he received a basic education from his mother and his tutor, Mr. Kung, who taught him to read the classics of Chinese literature.

until that moment Pearl had lived immersed in a completely Chinese environment and quite humble. So when she entered the American school in Shanghai, Miss Jewell’s Day School, Pearl began to realize that the safe and carefree world she had previously shared with her parents in the Presbyterian mission was not the only one in existence. and that besides him there were others very different.

Photograph of Pearl S. Buck during the promotion of her book the great wave.

Photo: Cordon Press

Years later, Pearl herself would tell in her autobiography the dichotomy between the two worlds in which she was educated: “I grew up between two different worlds, one corresponds to the world of a narrow and clean vision of the North Americans; while the other corresponds to a vision of a wide, happy, cheerful and less clean world of the Chinese. The two worlds do not communicate In the world of the Chinese, I speak Chinese, behave like one of them, eat the same, and share their thoughts and feelings. In the world of the Americans, I close the door that connects them.”

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Marriage and some setbacks

In 1910, Pearl S. Buck returned to the United States to study psychology at a university in Virginia, where her behavior and Chinese-style haircut drew attention among her peers, which made her feel somewhat uncomfortable. After her graduation in 1914 she had to immediately return to China to take care of her sick mother and there she began to teach English in various schools. In 1917, Pearl met her future first husband, an agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck, Who would he marry that same year? The couple later moved to Suzhou, a city along the Yangtze River, where they lived for almost three years.

In 1914, Pearl had to return immediately to China to care for her sick mother, and there she began teaching English at various schools.

Pearl S. Buck with a group of Chinese children adopted by families through her Welcome House adoption agency.

Photo: Cordon Press

At the end of 1919, the couple moved to Nanjing, where they both worked as professors at the university and where Pearl would write almost all the works that would contribute to his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize years later. Pearl first translated into English at the edge of the waterone of the four most famous classical works of Chinese literature which would be published under the title of All Men are Brothers (all men are brothers). A year later, in 1920, Pearl gave birth to Carol, her first and only biological child, who would be born seriously mentally ill. But Pearl was soon to receive another heavy blow. that same year They detected a uterine tumor, the removal of which would cause permanent sterility. After that terrible news, in 1921 Pearl had to face the death of her mother and shortly after the death of her father. To try to overcome all these setbacks, in 1925 the Bucks decided to move to the United States, where they adopted a girl they would call Janice, although they returned to China in the fall of that same year.

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Pearl S. Buck’s China Vision

While living in Suzhou, Pearl had met many illiterate peasants who had never seen a foreigner. The author witnessed how those people struggled every day to subsist and survive hunger, poverty and natural disasters. Pearl was deeply moved by the simplicity and tenacity with which they faced the adversities of life, so much so that he came to affirm that those peasants were the true representation of the Chinese nation. Thus, Pearl was compelled to write about them, as she said, to break stereotypes: “I don’t like works that describe the Chinese in a strange and grotesque way. My greatest desire is to make the real image appear in my works. of this nation”, and it is that in his books the author decided to show the real life of the Chinese people of her time to western readers with the intention of changing the widespread image of “mysterious orientals” that some western writers had popularized about the Chinese.

Pearl’s stay in Suzhou allowed her to meet many illiterate peasants who had never seen a foreigner.

1656297726 90 Pearl S Buck the American writer who fell in love

Pearl S. Buck receives the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Gustaf V of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall in 1938.

Photo: PS

In 1927, Pearl and her family were caught in the middle of a standoff between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops and Communist forces, known as the “Nanking Incident,” during which various warlords and some western citizens were killed. With the help of the American embassy, ​​the Bucks moved to Shanghai and from there they went to Japan to head to the United States. There Pearl would begin her brilliant career as a novelist. It was the year 1930 when he published his first novel, East wind, west wind, thanks to the help of a publisher named John Day, who would end up becoming her second husband five years later, after her divorce from John Lossing Buck. In 1931, Pearl published the good landwhich would become the best-selling novel that year and the next. A year later, Pearl won the Pulitzer Prize. and assumed the position of president of the Association of Authors of the United States.

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The importance of helping others

In 1938, Pearl S. Buck won the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first North American woman to achieve this award and the first Westerner to achieve it by writing about China. A year earlier, on December 13, 1937, Japan had carried out a bloody massacre of civilians in the city of Nanjing, and as soon as they heard the news Pearl published an article to condemn the excesses of the Japanese military. In 1940, already in the middle of the war, together with the journalist Edgar P. Snow, a specialist in the Asian country, he collected funds and medical aid to send to the Chinese population, and he made an appeal to set up an aid association of which he assumed the presidency.

On December 13, 1937, Japan carried out a bloody massacre of civilians in Nanking, and Pearl published an article condemning the excesses of the Japanese army.

1656297727 738 Pearl S Buck the American writer who fell in love

A Chinese prisoner of war about to be beheaded by a Japanese officer.

Photo: CC

In fact, Pearl S. Buck was a tireless activist for women’s and civil rights throughout her life.and published several essays in the newspaper of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACPfor its acronym in English), and Opportunity, the magazine of the Urban League, an organization that fought for civil rights. In 1949, Pearl founded the Welcome Housethe first adoption agency to accept Asian and non-Asian children, and years later, in 1964, founded the Pearl S. Buck Foundationwhich provided care for Asian-American children who were not candidates for adoption and also provided assistance to thousands of children from Asian countries.

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Longing for China

Long after World War II ended, in the midst of the Cold War, and after many years without being able to travel to China, Pearl sent a telegram to a member of the Chinese Communist Party named Zhou Enlai and various party leaders to be allowed to visit the country, which they denied him. In February 1972, relations between China and the United States seemed to experience some improvement, so she Pearl asked US President Richard Nixon to let her accompany him on her next official visit to the Asian country. The president promised to help her in any way possible, but when Nixon announced his next official trip to China, Pearl went to the Chinese embassy in Canada to apply for an entry visa to avoid any problems. But her request was rejected.

With the idea of ​​accompanying Nixon on his official trip to China, Pearl went to the Chinese embassy in Canada to apply for a visa, but her application was rejected.

That setback caused him great annoyance, to which would be added the detection of a lung cancer that ended up causing his death on March 6, 1973, at 81 years of age. Pearl died without being able to fulfill her dream of returning one last time to her longed-for China. For her last trip, Pearl’s body was dressed in her wow Favourite, a suit inspired by the aesthetics of the Manchu people. Currently, many Chinese tourists who visit the United States go to the former residence and cemetery where Pearl S. Buck is buried, a writer who deeply loved that country, and who always lived between two worlds.

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Pearl S. Buck, the American writer who fell in love with China