Pearl Buck by ΚΔ

One of the most remarkable and popular writers of her age, who with her work managed-among other things- to touch and successfully describe with an elegant style the core of Chinese society and life, was Pearl Buck, also known with the pseudonym “John Sedges”. Her writings had traveled around the world and still remain diachronic pieces of work for which in 1983 she was awarded the Noble Prize of Literature. Pearl Buck was also characterized for her humanitarian and philanthropist worries, noted for her novel of life in China.

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker, as it was her family name, “Sài Zhēnzhū” in Chinese (赛珍珠), was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents, Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker, were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, stationed in China where she spent her youth. Her family lived in Zhenjiang, in Jiangsu province, a small city lying at the junction of the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal. Pearl spoke the Chinese language as well as her mother tongue.

After being educated by her mother and by a Chinese tutor (a Confucian scholar), Pearl was sent -at the age of fifteen- to a boarding school in Shanghai for two years (1907-1909). She also worked for the “Door of Hope”, a shelter for Chinese slave girls and prostitutes. Later, she continued her education in the United States at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia, where she studied psychology and form which she graduated in 1914, and she returned back to China as a teacher for the Presbyterian Board of Missions.

In May 1917, Pearl married John Lossing Buck, an agricultural expert and they settled in a village in the North China. Pearl worked as a teacher and interpreter for her husband with whom they traveled through the countryside. In the 1920s they moved to Nanjing, where Pearl taught English and American literature at the university.

In 1924 she returned to the United States to seek medical care for her first daughter Carol, who was mentally retarded. During that time she briefly resumed studying in the United States at Cornell University where she took her M.A. in 1926. Next year, in 1927 she went back to China.

She began contributing articles on Chinese life to American magazines such as Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and Atlantic Monthly, in 1922. Her first novel, “East Wind, West Wind”, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day’s publisher, Richard Walsh, eventually become Pearl’s second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces. Despite her divorce, Pearl retained the name Buck professionally.

In 1931, her second novel “The Good Earth” was published and very soon became a best-selling book. It sold 1,800,000 copies in its first year; it has been translated into more than thirty languages and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1932 and the Howells Medal in 1935. The book was filmed in 1937.

Other novels and books of non-fiction quickly followed and in 1936 Buck were made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters while two years later, in 1938 she became the third American who won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1951 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. During World War II she lectured and wrote on democracy and American attitudes toward Asia.

Among the well known books of her, are: “The Good Earth” (1931), “Sons” (1932), “Mother” (1934), “The Patriot” (1939), “Dragon Seed” (1942), “The Child who never Grew” (1950) and many others.

Pearl Buck died at the age of eighty in Danby, Vermont, on March 6, 1973 having published over than seventy books including novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translations from the Chinese.

Her manuscripts and papers are at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, Hillsboro, West Virginia and the Lipscomb Library of Randolph-Macon Women’s College, Lynchburg, Virginia.

Selected bibliography

Series

House of Earth
1. The Good Earth (1931)
2. Sons (1932)
3. A House Divided (1935)

Novels

East Wind: West Wind (1930)
The Mother (1934)
The Patriot (1939)
Other Gods: An American Legend (1940)
Dragon Seed (1942)
Peony (1948)
The Bondmaid (1949)
Kinfolk (1950)
God’s Men (1951)
Hidden Flower (1952)
Come, My Beloved (1953)
Johnny Jack And His Beginnings (1955)
The Big Wave (1956)
Imperial Woman (1956)
Letter from Peking (1957)
The Christmas Mouse (1958)
Command the Morning (1959)
Christmas Ghost (1960)
The Promise (1961)
The Devil Never Sleeps (1962)
The Living Reed (1963)
Man Who Changed China: The Story of Sun Yat-sen (1963)
Death in the Castle (1966)
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (1967)
Time is Noon (1967)
The New Year (1968)
Three Daughters of Madame Liang (1969)
Mandala (1971)
Chinese Story Teller (1971)
Pavilion of Women (1972)
Goddess Abides (1972)
Far and Near (1973)
Portrait of a Marriage (1973)
All Under Heaven (1973)
Rainbow (1974)
The Long Love (1975)
The Townsman (1975)
Voices in the House (1975)
Angry Wife (1980)
Bright Procession (1980)
Annapurna (1981)
Piyani (1981)
The Enemy (1992)
Little Reed (1992)
The Old Demon (1993)
A Field of Rice (1995)
My Several Worlds (1996)
Christmas Day in the Morning (2002)

Collections

The First Wife: And Other Stories (1933)
Today and Forever (1941)
One Bright Day: And Other Stories for Children (1952)
Fourteen Stories (1961)
With a Delicate Air: And Other Stories (1962)
To My Daughters, With Love (1967)
The Good Deed: And Other Stories of Asia Past And Present (1969)
Story Bible: The New Testament (1972)
Story Bible: Old Testament (1972)
East and West (1975)
Secrets of the Heart (1976)
The Lovers (1978)
The Woman Who Was Changed: And Other Stories (1979)
A Pearl Buck Reader (1985)
Pearl S. Buck’s Book of Christmas (1986)
Pearl S. Buck, the Story Bible (1997)

Non fiction

The Exile (1936)
Fighting Angel: Portrait of a soul (1937)
The Chinese Novel (1939)
American argument (1950)
The Child Who Never Grew (1950)
Tell the People: Talks with James Yen About the Mass Educational Movement (1959)
A Bridge for Passing (1963)
The People of Japan (1968)
The Kennedy Women (1970)
China as I See it (1971)
Pearl Buck’s America (1971)
American Unity and Asia (1972)
What America Means to Me (1973)
Joy of Children (1974)
Pearl S. Buck’s Oriental Cookbook (1974)
Oriental Cook Book (1974)

Anthologies edited

Fairy Tales of the Orient (1965)