Pearl S. Buck's last novel, a 'crypto-autobiography'

Thu May 8, 2014 5:05am EDT
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By Randall Mikkelsen

BOSTON (Reuters) - It is hard to imagine a China so remote in Western imagination that a single American writer could serve as one of the few popular translators of its culture.

But that was a status Pearl S. Buck carried after her 1931 novel “The Good Earth” launched a prolific career that made her a global celebrity. She won a Pulitzer prize for the book, and a Nobel prize in 1938 for the body of her work.

The four decades since her death have seen her profile dimmed, but the discovery and publication of a final book, “The Eternal Wonder,” has drawn new attention to Buck.

The draft manuscript was discovered in 2012 in an abandoned storage locker in Texas. Her son and literary executor, Edgar, edited the book for electronic and paperback publication. Buck depicts, from the dawning of consciousness in utero, the formative years of a genius seeking meaning and love, accompanied by a Chinese-American woman he meets in Paris.

Walsh spoke with Reuters about how he readied the book for publication, its contribution to Buck’s rich legacy, and how e-books have aided the profile of deceased authors.

Q: How does this book add to Pearl S. Buck’s body of work?

A: “The Eternal Wonder” is in some ways a crypto-autobiography. It’s Pearl Buck creating a character, a young man who could be her, who knows from the get-go that he is special. She makes a statement of her own personal journey and her own personal philosophy. It’s an emotional and intellectual voyage.   Continued...