Tsai Yahsun, Professor, Department of Applied Language and Culture, National Taiwan Normal University
The eponymous protagonist of “A Day in Professor Tan's Life” teaches in a university Chinese department. In his youth Professor Tan followed the Nationalist government to Taiwan, where he has since led an uneventful life. The letters he receives daily remind him of past times, and in conversations with colleagues he experiences the sadness of life’s passing. The missives include the obituary of Shen Yishan, an old friend who accompanied the professor to Taiwan, a letter from, Jian Zongxiong, a former student seeking assistance, and a friendly greeting from Yu Jimei, another former student who is now in the US. News of his friend’s death doesn’t overly sadden the professor, but it is a reminder that he too is elderly. The second letter reflects the professor’s inability to help Jian Zongxiong, his former student who is struggling to survive in society.
One day a colleague pays a call on Professor Tan and the conversation brings back memories of the professor’s interactions with his own teacher, Kang Yue. Although the writer devotes little ink to Tan’s emotional state, the passage sets the stage for what is soon to follow. Then Professor Tan’s thoughts suddenly return to the present, remembering a letter from his eldest son. Although the son indirectly expresses concern for his father, it only serves to increase the latter’s anxiety, as if his son has again reminded him of time’s passing.
Afterwards, Professor Tan resumes his daily routine, visiting the library where he spots a critical commentary on his mentor Kang Yue, written by Xia Chenbai, another of Kang’s students. Xia Chenbai takes exception to Kang’s high standing in the academic world, even going so far as to conclude that Kang’s scholarly reputation is completely undeserved. The words and sentences of the unwarranted criticism not only strike at Professor Tan’s heart, but also stir memories of the time he, Kang, and Xia studied together. At this point Tan’s wife gives him news of Xia, plunging the professor back into the past. Here the writer uses dialogue to present the emotional changes that took place in Kang’s relationship with his students Tan and Xia.
The article reawakens memories, arousing Professor Tan emotionally. When he comes across Xia’s biased account of an incident involving Kang Yue – Tan knows what actually transpired – the grief and anger he has long kept bottled up inside rises to the surface. He is deeply hurt that his mentor, a true scholar, has been maligned by the likes of the unscrupulous Xia Chenbai. Tan recalls that several years earlier someone requested he rehabilitate Kang Yue’s academic reputation, but then he had calmly held his ire in check. Now, fueled by anger, he decides to write a response to set the record straight.
In his agitation Professor Tan churns outs several pages in eloquent defense of Kang Yue, but in the end tears up the envelope he has addressed to the magazine and places the manuscript deep inside a drawer. In clear contrast to the “sincere, passionate, and easily excitable ‘young Turk’” he once was, Professor Tan now realizes that both love and hate are gradually diluted by the passage of time.
Wang Liru, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
Li Li (1948) is the penname of Bao Lili. Born in Nanjing, China, Li Li came to Taiwan with an uncle and aunt in 1949, growing up in Kaohsiung’s Fengshan District. After graduating from National Taiwan University’s Department of History, and began graduate work in political science at Purdue University in 1970. In her college days she penned fiction and translated as “Li Yang.” She later wrote as “Xue Li,” “Li Li,” and “Lily Hsueh,” publishing fiction, essays, and plays in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. After completing graduate school she served as editor and educator. Li Li currently resides in Stanford, California, working as a writer and translator.
Li Li writes mostly fiction and essays. Her 1982 “Last Night Train” won first prize in the United Daily News Fiction Awards. Her fiction and essays have been included in Compendium of Modern Chinese Literature and Classics of Twentieth Century Taiwan Literature, and she was featured in Twenty Taiwan Fiction Writers (1978-1998). A prolific writer, Li Li has published over thirty books of fiction, essays, plays, and screenplays.
Li Li’s early works depict the homesickness Chinese living abroad; moreover, because she has been involved with Baodiao Movement 1 , her writing often reveals a “Chinese complex.” Personal struggle and redemption, the laments of overseas Chinese, and gender issues are other themes informing her work. She wrote A Letter of Grief (1990) in memory of her eldest son, who died in 1989. In some later works intelligent young men are prototypical projections of her son, expressions of the notion that life doesn’t yield to fate. Critic Zheng Shusen notes that Li Li’s writing exhibits “a balance between art and philosophy, a natural symmetry.”
In 2001 Li Li entered her peak period of nonfiction writing. She traveled extensively, observing other countries and cultures, penning travel essays. Dry Seabeds (2004) combined sketches and photography, a stylistic innovation. Subsequently, she has published Floating Catkin: Zhang Ailing (2006) and the travel memoir Hotel California (2010). She recently released A Life with Books (2013), a memoir of her literary career.
1A movement that claims Taiwanese/Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands.
|Work(English)：||A Day in Professor Tan's Life|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》|
|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/0010550571|
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.|