Book #25

The Old Man of the Moon by Shen Fu

The Old Man of the Moon is Shen Fu's intimate and moving account of his marriage - from early passion to the trials of poverty and separation - and his great, enduring love for his wife in eighteenth-century China.

The man in Shen Fu’s tale is guilty of love. He professes that he loves his wife too deeply, and recounts their love and hardships until her death. His words are beautiful, yet there was something here that didn’t quite grip me.

My favourite part was the section devoted to the old man of the moon, and learning of the couple’s beliefs that he caused them to meet, and would cause them to meet again in the next life. The couple believed in this theory so strongly that they began to worship the old man of the moon, and pray they would come back together some day. It’s very sad and poignant, particularly due to the tragedy in the final pages.

Other than this, there was nothing here for me. Shen Fu tells the tale of the couples lives, their families, the poverty they find themselves embroiled within, and although I could feel the melancholia, nothing caught in my throat. Perhaps it was the translation, perhaps the eighteenth century language - I’m not sure, yet it’s definitely not one of the Little Black Classics I would rave about, not even to the old man of the moon.