Chen Jianzhong, Professor and Director, Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing Hua University
Lai He’s “Making Trouble” (1932) is a short story set in the Japanese colonial period. In the first half of the tale, a young man – the first-person narrator – gets into a dispute with another fellow while fishing. In the second half, the youth stands up for a Taiwanese woman falsely accused of killing a chicken that belonged to a Japanese police officer. The young man prepares to lead a group of Taiwanese to protest the unfair treatment, but at the last moment his countrymen desert him.
When his neighbors accuse him of “violence” and brand him a lôo-muâ – Taiwanese for “hooligan” – the youth observes that people naturally sympathize with the weak but feel only jealousy and hatred toward the strong. The Taiwanese resent Japanese domination but are afraid to fight back against their oppressors. Thus Lai He is critical of both his cowardly Taiwanese compatriots and their brutal Japanese overlords.
For Lai He, the young man’s “hooliganism” is in fact bravery – he alone is willing to challenge authority. His fellow Taiwanese chafe under Japanese rule yet are afraid to voice their discontent; they not only fail to unite against tyranny but moreover seek to curry favor with their colonial masters – in a further show of subservience they solicit funds to repair the Japanese policeman’s bathroom and bedstead. More than a victory for the colonizer, this token of Taiwanese acquiescence is an attack on the youth who has the boldness to demand justice.
In “Making Trouble” Lai He celebrates a young man’s “hooligan spirit” – courage in the face of oppression – and decries his people’s passivity. The story reveals the author’s pessimistic view of the Taiwanese character and exposes a central truth of the colonial paradigm – the Japanese will to dominate and the Taiwanese willingness to be dominated are in reality two sides of the same coin.
Lai He (1894-1943), poet, essayist and fiction writer, was a graduate of the prestigious Taiwan Sohtokufu Medical School. He studied classical Chinese from an early age and wrote under a variety of pennames. In 1916 he founded the Lai He Hospital in his hometown of Changhua. From 1918 to 1919 he worked at the Bo Ai Hospital in Xiamen on mainland China. In February of 1921 with Lin Xiantang and others he started the Petition for the Establishment of the Taiwan Council. In October of the same year he joined the Taiwan Cultural Association and was imprisoned for taking part in the Formosa Political Incident. In 1926 he edited a literary column for the Taiwanese People’s Newspaper, providing a forum for young writers such as Yang Kui, whose “Newspaper Delivery Boy” originally appeared in the Taiwan New People’s Newspaper (from Issue 306 onward the name of the original publication was changed to Taiwan New People’s Newspaper). He later served as editor at Southern Voice, Taiwan Literature and Arts, and New Taiwanese Literature. In his youth Lai gained fame for his classical Chinese poetry. As a champion of the New Literature Movement he published essays, poetry and fiction, establishing himself as a pioneer in different genres.
Lai He displayed his anti-colonialism by writing in Chinese rather than Japanese. More importantly, he was one of the first writers to work in colloquial Taiwanese, spearheading a literary revolution that celebrated the idiom of the masses as opposed to the language of the elite.
Lai He’s anti-colonialism is apparent in his criticisms of racism, police brutality and Japanese colonial education policy. In “On Lai He” Wang Shilang wrote: “[He] made great contributions to the success of new Taiwanese literature; to call him the father or mother of new Taiwan literature is an understatement.” Thus, Lai He has been accorded the title “Father of New Taiwan Literature.”
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit:
|Anthology：||Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series（《臺灣文學英譯叢刊》）|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Forum for the Study of World Literatures in Chinese, University of California, Santa Barbara|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.avanguard.com.tw/|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Avanguard Publishing Company|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://paper-republic.org/publishers/taiwan-literature-english-translation-series/|
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