Ma Yihang, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Luo Yijun’s “Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall” is collected in The Moon Family Name (2000). The twenty-one works in this collection are named after spaces and places and revolve around themes of migration, change, death, and family, while also touching upon the transformation of Taipei City. Although family and community are themes of The Moon Family Name, these pieces are far from being “family histories.” The writer often pauses in mid-flow, as if in freeze-frame, to seek out fragments of memory and experience, not in order to trace things to their source, but to show the unreliability and unverifiability of either genealogy or history. It is as if he believed, at bottom, that there are no stable origins to be traced after all – a perspective very much at odds with the ethnic categorization typically accepted in Taiwan.
“Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall” is a story about losing one’s way. The first-person narrator thinks back to the time when, as a junior high school student, he went on an errand to fetch his mother’s eyeglasses, taking a bus along an unfamiliar route to reach Taipei City. On his way back he mistakenly stumbles into Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which is still under construction. Strewn with stone blocks and steel rods, the vast building site is like an alien battlefield or a gigantic maze. After wandering about for what seems like an eternity, he finally finds the road back to Yonghe.
“Losing one’s way” and “disappearing” are at once plot points and images that recur over and over in this story. For example, when Daan Forest Park is constructed, almost every vestige of the military dependents’ village that used to occupy the site is erased. When the narrator tries to find the way that he once knew, he “sees” all manner of things from the past which have now vanished – his waisheng female friend, 1 illegal construction taking place during the night in a military dependents’ village, and the demolished central market “disappearing with a loud crash, a flash of light, and a cloud of dust.” The environment of the city changes at such a breathtaking pace that memory can scarcely keep up. But the description of losing one’s way as “a tragic metaphor for the original displacement of family” suggests the futility of seeking origins.
The text also responds in detailed passages to the peculiar plight of waisheng communities. His father spares no effort to learn Taiwanese so that when he takes a taxi ride he will not be seen as an “old taro,” 2 and there is an inexplicable barrier between the second-generation waisheng narrator and his bensheng peers. By contrast, some of the children at school are from families from the now-defunct province of Chahar, 3 and they have no way of commemorating or continuing their ancestral heritage. The narrator says, “This is a story about a bad map.” The image of the bad map does not merely represent losing one’s way but also suggests a whole host of displacements in the real and symbolic space of power structures. The writer uses the concepts of “losing one’s way,” “disappearing,” and “displacement” to portray a highly complex memory map of Taipei City, showing the difficulty of categorizing and reducing to simple formulae the complexities of real lives, actions, and movements.
1Waisheng (literally “other province”) is used to refer to mainland Chinese who came to Taiwan in the late 1940s-early 1950s and their descendants. By contrast, bensheng (literally “this province”) indicates people whose families have lived in Taiwan for generations, often hundreds of years.
2“Taro” is one of the nicknames for waishengren; the corresponding nickname for benshengren is “sweet potato.”
3A former province in north China, existing from 1912 to 1936.
Tsai Peihan, Ph.D. student, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
Luo Yijun was born in Taipei in 1967 to a family from Anhui, China. As a high-school student he dreamed of working as a park ranger. He tested into Chinese Culture University’s Forestry Department but changed his major to creative writing after he began to find his direction as a writer. He was influenced by the works of Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Marquez, Mishima, Kawabata and others, enjoying the spiritual stimulus that literature gave him. His writing was also shaped by prominent members of the faculty, including Zhang Dachun, Luo Zhicheng, Yang Tse, and Yung Man-han. After graduating, Luo earned a Master’s degree in scriptwriting from Taipei National University of the Arts. He has taught at Chinese Culture University’s Department of Chinese Literature and Taipei Normal College (now the University of Taipei), and served as editor at a publishing house and critics’ book-of-the-week committee member at China Times.
Luo Yijun is best known as a writer of fiction. His 1993 “Scarlet Letter Group” won the Taiwan Provincial Literary Arts Prize. Luo since has received a host of other literary honors, including the National Student Writing Award, the China Times Literary Prize and other awards. He excels at using poetic language to develop broken narratives and jagged timelines, as in the representative short story “Twelve Signs of the Zodiac,” where a labyrinthine-like time structure is used to create multidimensional spaces.
The beginnings of Luo Yijun’s stories usually find the protagonist in an anxious state of mind or an unresolved situation. As the story develops, narrative time does not flow normally but leaps and circles according to the protagonist’s mental states, as though the time structure were created by soliloquy. Recently, Luo has begun publishing on Facebook, where his distinctly sad but humorous style has drawn a legion of fans.
To date Luo’s work includes the short-story collections Since We Left the Night Club (1993, later reissued as Twelve Signs of the Zodiac), Wife Dreaming of the Dog (1998), and We (2004); the novels The Third Dancer (1999), The Moon Surname (2000), Sent Compassion (2001), Far Away (2003) My Future Second Son’s Memories of Me (2005), Xixia Hotel (2008), which won the Dream of the Red Chamber Award: The World’s Most Distinguished Chinese Novel, and Daughter (2014); the essay collections I Love Luo (2006), Notes of an Inexperienced Person (2006), and Book of Face (2006); and the poetry collection An Abandoned Story (2014). In 2014 Taiwan Dreams Episode I: Dream Hotel, a dramatic adaptation of Luo’s Xixia Hotel, written and produced by Wei Yingjuan and staged by the Creative Theater Group, transferred the novel’s fantasyland to a different media.
|Work(English)：||Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall|
|Anthology：||The Moon Family Name|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Unitas Publishing Co.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://unitas.udngroup.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Unitas Publishing Co.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|