But to stat at the beginning. This story is about a venerated writer and true Romantic – a breed we had thought lost- named Chen Maoping. 1943-1991, 38 years. You (nor anyone else) will not know the name, but you might even if a non-Chinese have heard of “Sanmao” or “Echo”, her two noms de plume, one humorous, one from legend and dead serious.
Her collected works are long since published – though not translated: you can find them at http://zhy-xianger.blog.163.com/blog/static/56788522200911594432503 (2007) – the best edition. But they are not fiction, cannot be read in any kind of sequence. You have to skip through until you develop a sense of her-ness, more though a matter of patience than textual decode. She shows herself though memories but they are all modelled as bio-episodes from her life, sometimes contrived, sometimes not, but usually more open and honest and naked than you will find anywhere else in contemporary Chinese prose.
If you want an off-the-cuff look – (write) – alike, it surely must be:
Out of Africa the memoir by Isak Dinesen, a pen name used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke”, “I once had a farm in Africa”: demise before description,
A good place to start Saao/Echo is http://www.shuku.net:8082/novels/sanmao/mengli/nanhai.html 一个男孩子的爱情 which is her epitaph for her husband Jose (d 1979) after but 6 years of marriage, but 12 of romance in the broad sense. Which clearly is the key to her end. (translated in appendix)
She is hardly avant garde but is and has been in vogue since the 1972 publication of “Tales of the Sahara”, which has become almost a cult must-read for escapist longing and loneliness.
But though Taiwanese and attached to the heretical Jia Ping’ao (a banned dissident), she has found a middle ground as Romantic liberal, uncomfortable for the Beijing monarchy, but precariously independent in life as in death. The Romance of the Betwixt in two senses: China-Taiwan, and China Authority vs China as a home (audience) for breakaways.