Chu Djang — we wrote his name Djang Chu in those days — was one of my father’s very closest friends, and I have many memories of visiting “Djang,” as we always called him, his wife Jane, and his sons William and Arthur in New York, as we were growing up. (Once, when I was about 9, Daddy and Genevieve had managed to get us quite lost in the car as we went out through Long Island to visit our friends.. I have a strong mathematical streak from the OTHER side of my genetic inheritance, and I knew exactly where we were relative to our goal by reading the street numbers and names. But did the grownups listen to me? Whaddya think? Of course not!)
Anyway, one day in 2001, I was delighted to receive in the mail Chu Djang’s “From Loss to Renewal: A Tale of Life Experience at Ninety,” available from iUniverse — the link takes you right to the page describing the book.
Later I would read and savor the details of Chu’s fascinating life and illustrious career, but immediately I went searching for what he might have said about my father. They became friends as graduate students at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and later they collaborated, with Ardath Burks, on a college textbook called Far Eastern Politics and Governments.
Here’s a little from the book:
Paul and I used to have rag sessions after school in a coffee shop near the school, discussing many things in life…[He] was quick-witted and had such a sense of humor that he could laugh at his misfortune. After he obtained his degree, he and John Fairbank were employed by Harvard as two teaching interns. When the term of internship expired, Harvard dismissed Linebarger and retained Fairbank. When asked about the incident, Paul replied, “I guess Harvard couldn’t afford to employ two geniuses at once.” [page 49]
I found some of the ideas in this commentary rather startling:
Paul’s versatility was at once his asset as well as his liability. He was one of the few pioneers of Chinese studies, a leading authority of psychological warfare and a recognized writer of science fiction.
Had he concentrated on a single subject, his accomplishment would have been much greater…Science fiction, therefore, was a natural product of his mind. His mind shifted from one idea to another with the swiftness and ease of a computer. His lectures sounded like science fiction and there was more imagination than reasoning in his presentation. However, he did not take pride in being a successful author of science fiction. To him writing science fiction was only an escape, a way to keep his sanity and additional therapeutic treatment to his self-psychoanalysis. [page 50]
My jaw dropped as I read that. It’s a measure of the friendship between the two men that Djang knew about the science fiction. I do remember that my father felt his political science and psywar colleagues might think less of him if they knew of his sci fi activities, so my guess is that he downplayed them with Djang.
In my memory, my father was very proud of his science fiction stories. I remember him waving around copies of magazines that he was in, quite pleased. He liked whatever money he got, too. Letters he wrote to me when I was in college would mention stories being published and how much money he was earning from them.
Back in the 1980s, I spent about six weeks in the Long Island home of Djang and his wife Jane, while my mother was dying in a hospital near their home. They could not have been kinder to me, and once when I tried to express my appreciation for everything they were doing for me, Djang got a faraway look in his eye and commented that he could never repay what my father had done for him. So I shut up.
It’s been several years now since I’ve been in contact with Djang, and since he was 90 some seven years ago, I imagine he is no longer with us.
This article originally appeared in my 2002 ezine on this site, and is the first of a number of such articles that I am recycling into the blog.