Lan Shibo, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
Formosa Betrayed, by George Kerr (1911–1992) was published in 1965. After the Second World War, Kerr was a U.S. diplomatic officer stationed in Taiwan. Consisting of an introduction and four parts divided into 22 chapters, the book describes events in Taiwan from 1941 to 1965, with a special emphasis on the postwar period from 1945 to the 228 Incident of 1947. The book indicts the Chinese Kuomintang government’s Taiwanese administration of misgovernance and corruption and clearly relates the events of the 228 Incident in 1947, when Taiwanese people were massacred by government forces. As a result, when the book was published in the U.S. in 1965, the Kuomintang government rushed to buy up the copyright so as to prevent the book’s circulation.
Despite this countermeasure, the book was highly influential among Taiwanese students studying abroad from the 1970s on, and a Chinese-language version, translated by Chen Rongcheng among others, began to circulate overseas. In addition to providing something of a political enlightenment, the book also induced many Taiwanese overseas students to join the ranks of the Taiwanese independence movement. It is also worth noting that the translation and publication of this book shed light on the moribund state of academic research in postwar Taiwan. During the period of martial law, a lot of the research on Taiwan written in Japanese and English was collaboratively translated by Taiwanese students studying overseas; only when martial law was lifted was it officially published in Taiwan.
The earliest Chinese translation was published by Tamayama Shosha in Japan. Its earliest appearance in Taiwan was in a special edition of Cultivate magazine. In 2003 it was officially published by the Taiwanese publishing house Avanguard. Because the Chinese version was first translated directly from the original English text, and because the relevant historical data and research materials were not widely available, the book does contain some errors. In 2009, the Taiwan Association of University Professors invited Ke Cuiyuan and Zhan Liru to make a new translation, to be revised and annotated by expert scholars including Zhang Yanxian, He Yilin, Chen Cuilian, Chen Yishen, and Su Yaochong. Apart from looking for discrepancies, the new version would bring the author’s use of historical documentation into line with contemporary research into the 228 Incident. The new revised and annotated translation came out in 2014.
George Kerr was very forthright about the ways in which the U.S. had failed to live up to the goodwill and good opinion of the Taiwanese people (for example, by repeatedly ignoring Taiwan’s claims to autonomy) and he was critical of the U.S. support for the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek. At a time when most Americans were inclined to take the Kuomintang’s official government account at face value, Formosa Betrayed was the real voice of truth and justice. Such is this book’s historical importance.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|