Eileen Chang and the Soongs, 1963
The following article originally appeared in Apple Daily. Since that link is blocked in mainland China, a mainland link is used here instead.
(People.com.cn) 从六封家书看张爱玲“苦命如斯”的一面. 刘绍铭. November 24, 2008.
张爱玲为了生计，1961年底应宋淇之邀到香港写剧本。张爱玲这时已是美国“过气” 作家赖雅（Ferdinand Reyher，1891-1967）的眷属。她不得不“拋头露面”出来讨生活，因为养家的担子落在她身上。赖雅在二三四十年代活跃美国文坛，一度曾为好莱坞写剧本，周薪高达五百美元。张爱玲在1956年跟他结婚时，他的写作生涯已走下坡，再难靠笔耕过活了。六○年代中赖雅中风瘫痪，顿使“小女子”的重担百上加斤。
信末有这么一句：Sweet thing, you don't tell me how things are with you but I know you're living in limbs like me。
先说上面的英文引文。高全之译为：“甜心，你不告诉我你的近况，但是我知道你和我一样活得狼狈不堪。”高全之最见功夫的是在有关 living in limbs注疏上的“钩沉”。他说译为“狼狈不堪”是为了避免“躯体衰弱（形同枯槁）”的种种联想。Living in limbs 亦有丧失生存意义的隐喻，因为卡缪（Albert Camus，1913-1960）说过：To put it in a nutshell, why this eagerness to live in limbs that are destined to rot？
张爱玲在信中用了living in limbs这种字眼，就她当时的处境看，用高全之的话说，反映了她“灰头土脸”的落魄心情。为了赶写剧本，害得眼睛出血。美国出版商不早不晚，这时来了退稿通知。经济大失预算，迫得接受“痛苦的安排”：向宋淇夫妇借钱过活。恐怕对她打击最大的是她提前完成了新剧本时，“宋家认为我赶工粗糙，欺骗了他们”。这封2月20日发出的信这么结尾：“暗夜里在屋顶散步，不知你是否体会我的情况，我觉得全世界没有人我可以求助。”
《传奇》作家腿肿脚胀，却要忍痛穿着不合大小的鞋子走路，苦命如斯，真的是living in limbs。这六封英文写的家书，让我们看到张爱玲“不足为外人道”的一面。
The letter of February 20, 1962 from Eileen Chang to her husband Ferdinand Reyher contained these words:
I managed to finish the new script ahead of schedule & booked a ticket on the March 2nd plane. Angry daily reaction from the Soongs who thought I'd been racing through rough works, cheating on them. Stephen Soong said I'll be paid for the new script before I leave, meaning they won't pay for the other two, Red Chamber I & II, & made no comments when I said I'll revise them in the U.S. They've been worried all along about the Shaws filming Red Chamber ahead of them & it looks like they've finally decided to dro pthe project. The uncertainty hanging overhead all those months had contributed largely to my misery here. My leaving has forced the issue. Characteristically Chinese he merely avoided the subject & spoke instead of my writing another costume picture. The next day when the fact sank in I felt choked about to burst all day in my little room. There goes 3 months' labor & the year's security I've been striving for. There's still the several hundred I owe them for my living & medical expenses which I haven't reckoned with them yet & meant to pay out of the Red Chamber money. I can't sleep, my eyes first healed bleed again. I went up to the roof to think, under a full red moon, night before the Lantern Festival. They're no friends of mine any more but I'll salvage several hundred out of bad business, stay over for 2 wks. to talk about a compromise of sorts & leave on the 16th as originally planned.
"They're no friends of mine any more." That sounds very serious indeed. So how did they reconcile later? That is an untold story so far. I went to the letters between Eileen Chang and the Soongs. Eileen Chang had arrived in Hong Kong in October 1961, and then left in March 1962. It was reasonable that there were no letters while she was in Hong Kong because she lived within walking distance of the Soongs' apartment. But the archive also did not have letters for the remainder of 1962. The first letter to appear was on January 24, 1963. This is reproduced below.
This yields no clue as to what happened that led to the 'reconciliation.' By 1963, it was a good friendship and business as usual. Eileen Chang referred to Stephen Soong's illness which involved surgery at a later date, and wanted to be informed about the outcome. She expressed regret at not being able to deliver the goods. She spoke about her aunt. She spoke about her eye infection which she had previously believed to be ulcers. And then she referred to the a film script titled: "The Real and Fake Aunts" (真假姑母). There was no movie made under the title "The Real and Fake Aunts." Instead, the actual movie was 《南北喜相逢》"The Greatest Love Affair on Earth" (1964). It is well-known (see 符立中) that this story was based upon the British play "Charley's Aunt." In the middle of the letter, she wrote: "I am in writing that novel right now, so I am just as self-satisfied as Langlang 朗朗." Who is 'Langlang'? That would be me, but I have no recollection about what I was being self-satisfied about at the time. So there is a lot of new information in this chatty letter, but nothing about the particular issue that initiated my search.
Thus, I am not able to come up with any evidence about what happened between Eileen Chang and the Soongs circa 1962.
P.S. There is a hint as to what was happening at the movie company in this unsigned letter to Lok Wan Tho (see Wikipedia) dated December 12, 1962.
P.P.S. (December 12, 2009) I just found some more correspondence from those years.