Yan Na, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Chinese Literature, National Tsing Hua University
“Even-glow” is unique among Yuan Qiongqiong’s writings on military dependents’ villages. In addition to describing the hardships endured by R.O.C. military men of her father’s generation, it also contains autobiographical elements. It was published in Yuan’s 1986 collection, The Season of Cold and Warmth.
“Even-glow” is set in a community of military dependents, a regular theme for Yuan, who herself grew up in Tangshan New Village in Tainan. The main character is the child of a Nationalist soldier who relocated to Taiwan in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War. The parent-child relationship is central to the story, which focuses on a child’s changing impression of a father figure over time.
As a child, the protagonist sees the father less as a family member and more as a soldier. The description of him as just “legs and a stomach in khaki military uniform” shows the distance between them and indicates that the father rarely spent time with his child. Later, when the father runs into problems in his career, he grows fat and clownish in appearance but grows closer to his family. The story climaxes with his frustrated ambition, illness, and eventual death. His life represents how being a good father in post-war Taiwan was often at odds with being a good soldier.
Like the character in her story, Yuan’s father was also a Chinese soldier who died of a heart attack when she was still young. Moreover, both Yuan and the narrator were born with their umbilical cords wrapped around their necks. This near-death experience so early in life made Yuan feel distant from the world, but perhaps it is that distance that gave her the powers of observation that make stories like “Even-glow” so insightful.
This is not the story of any single person, but of an entire time period. Every child growing up in a military dependents’ village had a similar story, whether or not it was actually true: “Dad used to have a lot of money.” The families that did in fact have property and money were forced to leave it all behind in China when they fled to Taiwan, and this feeling of being cut off was common among Yuan’s generation of mainland Chinese newcomers. The way in which the narrator’s father tries to literally and figuratively escape his failures mirrors village residents’ continual attempts to escape their situation.
Yuan ends her work by saying: “This is a biographical and factual account of the life of a regular person.” It is the story of individuals caught in a complex social and political environment. “Ever-glow” dutifully portrays the ordinary people of that world.
Yuan Qiongqiong (b. 1950) has also written under the pen name Zhu Ling. Born in Hsinchu, her family relocated to Tainan in 1954. She published “Road” in a school newspaper in 1967, a short story about her father’s death. Early on she wrote modern poetry and edited a literary journal, later gaining fame for her essays and fiction. In 1987 she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has won numerous prizes and awards for her fiction and essays, and has worked as a scriptwriter for TV and films. Notable works include Spring Water Boat (1979), a collection of short stories; the 1981 collection A Place of One's Own; and a 2003 volume of literary criticism.
Yuan Qiongqiong’s themes revolve around love between the sexes, focusing on modern women’s roles, often delving deeply into the feminine psyche. Her rich scriptwriting experience shows through in her stories – she has a thorough grasp of characters’ psychological processes and her plots are packed with dramatic tension. Her prose is imbued with intelligence and clarity, implying more than it actually states. Her work blurs the line between literary and popular fiction, winning accolades from both critics and fans. Fellow writers such as Hao Yuxiang and Wang Wenxing have hailed her consummate storytelling artistry. A leading practitioner of “boudoir” literature – a subgenre of women’s literature that came in vogue in the 1980s – Yuan is still immensely popular in Taiwan today.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=7671
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen（《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》）|
|Author：||Yuan Chiung-chiung (Yuan Qiongqiong)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||https://readmoo.com/book/210000512000101|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|READMOO website by eCrowd Media, Inc.|
|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.|