Chen Xiuling, MA student, Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing Hua University
“Life After Fifty” is Liao Yuhui’s reflection on her life as she turns fifty. The essay describes the subtle changes in physique, face, personality, and values that women experience in middle age. It also examines how women come to play different roles in society as they get older. The tone is at times razor-sharp and at times humorous, as the author mocks her own noticeable signs of aging and the anxiety they bring.
The age of fifty occupies an awkward middle ground between youth and old age, in which one struggles to maintain a shaky balance in the tug-of-war of life. Optimism and insomnia co-exist in the body of a fifty-year-old; her face unites both smile lines and wrinkles. In the middle of her life, the issues that she used to be passionate about or sniff at have quietly changed.
In ”Life After Fifty,” the author talks about her physical and psychological changes. By first describing what she feels then moving on to discuss how times have changed, the author explores a woman’s observations on her life. She coolly discusses how her advancing years threaten her body and contemplates her changing attitudes towards her roles as teacher, mother and wife.
As a teacher, she often shies away from giving failing grades and finds it difficult to refuse student pleas for leniency. When she turns fifty she makes a rule to stand by her decisions. But the toughness disappears altogether when students come to her for advice about problems in their love lives, and she ends up crying even more than the consolation-seeking students.
As a mother, her demonstrations of love for her adult children are often dismissed as interference. Despite vowing time and again that she will be open-minded, she still finds herself nagging, slipping into the stereotype of the “fussy old lady.” Under the banner of democracy, her children often fiercely debate matters of right and wrong with Mom and Dad; but when the heat of the moment has passed, her children have only to show her a little kindness for her to give in.
As a wife, she used to be impatient with her husband’s plodding, but as she enters middle age she realizes that efficiency is just an excuse for one’s own impatience. She also comes to understand that the most valuable quality in marriage is forbearance.
At the age of fifty, the author states she has seen enough human frailty and selfishness. She can no longer turn away from injustice and feels even more compelled to voice her opinions about social wrongs than when she was young. She also talks about how fast technology is changing, noting that even at her age she is curious about anything new and has a strong desire to learn. The beauty of this fifty-year-old woman may be on the wane and her health declining, but she has amassed a great store of wisdom. At fifty years old—an age where she is too old to play the princess but is still reluctant to play the queen—all she really wants is a simple and uneventful future.
Liao Yuhui (b. 1950), who grew up in Taichung and received a doctorate in Chinese Literature from Soochow University, writes under the pen names Tang Sheng and Liu Yingti. She is the recipient of numerous literary prizes—the Sun Yat-sen Art and Literary Award, the Wu Luqin literary essay prize, the May 4th Literature and Art Medal, and the Restoration Literature and Art Medal. Liao has worked as an editor for Youth Literary and as a newspaper and magazine columnist.
Most of her literary works are essays. Her essay collections include Do Not Believe Tenderness Will Not Return (1994), If Memory Were Like the Wind (1997), The Fifty-Year-Old Princess (2002), In the Green of Summer (2013), Hug Me, Granny! (2014).
Liao has also written two novels, Betting His Life (1998) and The Light-Blue Bubble (2000). In addition, she has published several illustrated books, including Once Beautiful (2001), The Glitter Book (2002) and Prosperity Has Departed: Liao Yuhui’s Prose, a Chinese−English Bilingual Edition (2011). The Ministry of Culture selected Liao’s 2011 prose work Afterwards, written in memory of her mother, as one of ten classic reads. The work is being made into a movie, scheduled to reach cinemas in 2015.
Liao Yuhui pens the beauty of life, and observes grotesque social phenomena with critical tolerance. Her stories are sincere and moving. She once said, “Life can only be splendid if one treats others sincerely rather than with flattery. The same goes for writing. Writing only has genuine spirit if it is honest and free of insincerity, ornament, and exaggeration.” Liao is interested in the human comedy; her essays often address her feelings about daily life, and she has her own unique interpretation of human life. In her writings, the most beautiful scenes depict care for others, family love, and the friendship between teachers and students. Beneath the seemingly trivial subject matter lies a philosophical view of life. Her style is simple, sincere, and engaging.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=7729
|Work(English)：||Life after fifty|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen（《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》）|
|Publisher：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.chiuko.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd.|
|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.|