Yan Yunzhen, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The East Asian geopolitical situation was unstable when Lin Huaimin wrote his short story “The Boy in the Red Shirt” (1968). War raged in Vietnam, and rumors werespreading that China would soon take over Taiwan. The hearsay filled the Taiwanese public with anxiety, initiating a wave of emigration to America. This desire to emigrate dovetailed with thetraditionalTaiwanese reverence for learning: For students, study abroad was the quickest route to America, a phenomenon reflected in the then-popular saying, “Come, come, come to Tai Da 1 , go, go, go to America.”
“The Boy in the Red Shirt” is set in that era. The story contrasts the lives of a group of typical Taiwanese university students with that of Xiao Hei (“Blackie”), a free spirit who makes his living doing odd jobs in theTaipei area. Xiao Hei’s palms are covered with jagged scars and thick calluses, symbolizing his tenacious vitality.Early in their association, the students look down on Xiao Hei – they don’t feel he fits in with them and he’s always wearing a bright red shirt. But after the first-person protagonist and Xiao Hei gradually become acquainted, Xiao Hei’sdevil-may-care attitude rattles his new friend, undermining his self-confidence and complacency.When the unassertive protagonistis forced to make amajor life decision, he is troubled: Should he go with his friends to study in the U.S.? Or should he listen to his girlfriend, remain in Taiwan, and find a job as a teacher? Xiao Hei’s existence is a wake-up call for the young man – to Xiao Hei’s thinking, if people don’t like tostudy, it won’t do them any good to go to school. “Why should I dress to please everyone else?” Xiao Hei asks, differentiating himself from the protagonist, who unthinkingly follows populartrends.Xiao Hei does dirty, dangerous jobs because he has a clear-cut goal: he wants to buy a motorcycle. According to middle-class values, a person should work and save in orderto settle down and raise afamily, but Xiao Hei advances confidently toward his dream, completely free from outside influences, doing as he pleases. And that’s why the narrator envies Xiao Hei.
Xiao Hei’s existence has a color of its own – bold, dazzling red. And even though he’s covered with dirt from head to toe and living at the bottom of the social ladder, his passion for living is apparent. By contrast, although the protagonist has a university degree, he is unclear of his own direction and has no goal in life. Not coincidentally, the students in the story are living their lives according to the socially approved blueprint –either they go to study abroad or find a steady job and settle down to raise a family. And so Xiao Hei’s existence poses a question to them: Just what are you living for?
Xiao Hei’s tragicomic ending seems to echo his unwillingness to integrate into society: in the end he buys a new motorcycle but while riding it plunges to his death in a ravine. Readers will regret Xiao Hei’s passing, but his untimely demise offers a lesson – his life may have gone by in a flash, but he lived it gloriously. In Xiao Hei readers glimpsea bit of the innocence that is lost in the growthprocess.
1National Taiwan University
Dai Huaxuan, Assistant Professor, Department of Taiwanese Literature, Aletheia University
Lin Huaimin (1947- ) is a native of Xingang in Chiayi County. He published “A Children’s Song,” his first short story, in the United Daily News supplement while studying at at Taichung First Middle School. Supplement editor-in-chief Lin Haiyin praised the junior high-school student’s adept use of montage techniques, and encouraged him to continue writing. Lin’s first short-story collection, Deformed Rainbow (1968) came out while he was enrolled in National Chengchi University’s Department of Journalism. Cicada (1969), his second collection,was published after university graduation. In love with literature, Lin went to the U.S. for further study, earning an MFA in creative writing at the University of Iowa.
Lin Huaimin is also passionate about dance – not only did he spend the proceeds of the sale of his first story on dance lessons, as a student in the U.S. he also researched modern dance at the University of Iowa and in New York City. He returned to Taiwan in 1972, and in 1973 founded the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, the Chinese world’s first modern dance-troupe, spurring the development of modernist performing arts in Taiwan. In 1983 Lin established the Department of Dance at the National Academy of the Arts (today’s Taipei National University of the Arts). Lin has choreographed more than seventy dances, including Cursive, Nine Songs, Songs of the Wanderers, and Legacy. He actively promotes modern dance and dance education.
Lin has received a great number of awards and honors: Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award (Taiwan, 1977); Wu San Lien Literary Award (1983); World Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award (1983); New York City Department of Culture Lifetime Achievement Award (1996), Honorary Fellowship, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (1997); Ramon Magsaysay Award in Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts (Philippines, 1999); Joyce Award (U.S., 2005); Time magazine’s Asia’s Heroes Award (2005); Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture (France, 2008); International Movimentos Dance Prize (Europe, 2009);American Dance Festival Lifetime Achievement Award (2013). Lin has also been awarded a number of honorary doctorates, both at home and abroad. In addition to his two short-story collections, Lin penned the essay collection On Dance (1981; republished in 1989 as two works, On Dance and Brief Encounter), High Places, Bright Eyes – Lin Huaimin’s Career in Dance (2010), a memoir, and a translation of the ancient Indian epic, The Mahabharata.
|Work(English)：||The Boy in the Red Shirt|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》|
|Author：||Lin Huaimin (Lin Hwai-min)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Taipei Chinese Center. International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010326737|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.taipen.org/the_chinese_pen/the_chinese_pen_03.htm|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||Taipei Chinese Center. International P.E.N.|