Ma Yihang, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
“(Non-)Escape Route,” published in Su Weizhen’s 2010 collection Daughter of a Book Rental Shop, is a glimpse into Su’s life after her father retired from his position as deputy commander of the Army Artillery and Missile School and began renting books. Su recalls her childhood surrounded by books, her inspiration to pursue literature, and her father’s emotional connection with military dependents’ villages.
The work can be seen as a memoir of both her family and the village, which was relocated some time after her father’s death. Through separate but interconnecting chapters, Su recalls life in her village and paints a detailed picture of contemporary Tainan, which she affectionately calls Nandu (the southern capital). The changing landscapes gain new significance from Su’s life experiences and ask readers to ponder the meaning of an “old” hometown.
The title “(Non-)Escape Route” hints at the unique direction Su takes in her commemorative piece. She writes about the “simple market road” she took every day for decades to buy breakfast as if it were a journey through her memories. The shops and settlements along the route show the nomadic character and flavor of life in and around military villages. Su describes it vividly: “Here, time does not make things newer or older. They are covered in a mysterious and strange glaze; you can wash them or paint them, but they will always look more like something from ‘a long time ago’ than you remember them appearing at the time.”
Some things change while others stay exactly the same. The beauty parlor by the market, for example, was once a noodle shop owned by her father, which he closed after less than two years. Even so, it brings back clear memories of her father preparing sauces late at night. These recollections mixing past and present turn her attempt to return home into a wandering journey through broken memories.
“Reconstructing memories is actually a trivial thing to do, especially when it’s memories from before adulthood,” Su admits in “Post-Tainan-ism.” The landscape of the military dependent’s village is both familiar and alien to her as she seeks to put her memories in order and oscillates between the feelings of return and escape.
Xu Zhenling, PhD Student, Department of Chinese Literature, National Chengchi University
Su Weizhen was born in Tainan, Taiwan, in 1954, but traces her ancestry to Guangdong, China. After graduating from the drama department of the Political Warfare College, she earned a doctorate from the School of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong. She has worked in the arts troupe of Taiwan’s Defense Ministry and as a radio host at the Central Broadcasting System (now Radio Taiwan International). She has also been deputy-head of the literary supplement for the United Daily News, editor-in-chief of the affiliated Weekly Reader News, and a lecturer at Tamkang University and China Culture University. Today, she is a professor in the Chinese department at National Cheng Kung University.
Su has earned numerous awards, including the military’s arts award, the short fiction award of the China Daily News, the United Daily News Prize for the Novelette, and the China Times Million Dollar Literary Prize for the Novel. In 2011, she participated in the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Her earlier works focus largely on love and the relationship between the sexes. Her first published work was “With Him for a While” (1979), a tragic love story. This was followed by larger collections, including The Faded Years of Youth (1981), With Him for a While (1983), Old Flame (1985), Hot Extinction (1992), and The Magic Hours (2002). Her award-winning The Island of Silence (1994) won wide acclaim for its depiction of a sexual utopia that turns typical love stories on their heads. Commentator Wang Der-wei has said the eerie loneliness that runs through many of her works is reminiscent of preeminent Chinese author Eileen Chang (1920-1995).
The other common theme in Su’s works is life in military dependents’ villages and in the military itself. These include A Thousand Miles of Fate (1984), No Time to Grow Up (1989), Goodbye Tong-Fang Village (1990), The Ranks of Time (2006), and The Memories of Books (2010). She also edited the 2004 compilation Selected Stories of Taiwan’s Military Dependents’ Villages.
Su is also known as one of the most prominent scholars of Eileen Chang and her impact on modern Chinese writing. Her publications on the influential writer include Eileen Chang in Hong Kong (2002), Generations of Chang School Writers in Taiwan (2006), and Close-up on Eileen Chang: Images, Letters, and Publications (2011), as well as a collection of letters to and from Chang in Letters of Eileen Chang (2007).
|Anthology：||Daughter of a Book Rental Shop|
|Publisher：||Taipei: INK Literary Monthly Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.sudu.cc|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|INK Literary Monthly Publishing Co.,. Ltd.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|