About Sanmao (1943-1991)
Born in Chongqing, the Taiwanese novelist, translator and writer published her first essay at the age of 19. Sanmao showed passionate interest in literature at a very young age, and was a cult reader of the Dream of the Red Chamber when she was a primary school student. After a distressing incident when a teacher humiliated her in front of her classmates, Sanmao stopped attending school. Her father taught her English and classical literature at home. Her work ranges from autobiographical writing, to travel writing and reflective novels, to translations of European comic books. She studied philosophy at the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan, with the goal of "[finding] the solution to problems in life", and taught German, in addition to a serious later career in writing. In 1976 she published the autobiographical The Stories of the Sahara, which recorded her experiences living in the Sahara together with her Spanish husband Jose, whom she first met in Madrid and later married in 1973 while living together in the then Spanish-controlled Western Sahara. Part travelogue and part memoir, it was an eye-opening account of life and love, and quickly established Sanmao as a travel writer with a unique voice. Following the book's immense success in Taiwan, Hong Kong and across the Chinese mainland, her early writings were collected in a second book, published under the title Gone With the Rainy Season. Dealing mainly with her own experiences studying and living abroad, Sanmao's books were extremely well received and remain popular reads today. From 1976 to the time of her death in 1991, Sanmao published more than 20 books. She also translated the comic
Mafalda from Spanish to Chinese. At the age of 47, Sanmao hanged herself with a pair of silk stockings in a hospital in Taipei. This took place days after a cancer scare and losing the Hong Kong movie award for her script to the film Red Dust, a loss which she took poorly.