Jin Runong, PhD candidate, Department of Chinese Literature, National Chung Hsing University
The story begins with a thunderclap: A man’s corpse, long decomposing in the waters of Lake Michigan, awakens from a long sleep. Although the man died a hundred years earlier, investigators discover that the corpse’s brain responds to electric shock. As a psychology experiment, a tech team is formed “to attempt to use the skull to reconstruct a model of the man’s brain,” hoping to learn whether they can use the process to restore his memory.
Working under the premise that the man’s intelligence hasn’t been obliterated, the team attempts to awaken his memories with a barrage of visual imagery. As team members hoped, “when he gazes at a yam-shaped island he suddenly cries out ‘Ah-ha…’” Subsequently, “reeds, bamboo forests, bananas, oleander, orchids” and other things awaken the man’s memory. Only then does he realize that he is Taiwanese. He was on a flight from Chicago to New York when Shiite terrorists hijacked the plane and he ended up as a corpse floating in Lake Michigan.
After confirming his identity, the man decides to return to Taiwan, which has been voted “the world’s third best-loved vacation spot.” But everything has changed in his homeland. “The amusement park was clean, fresh and cool, neat, and peaceful,” completely different from the “bustling, dirty, crowded, noisy, corrupt, and chaotic” Taiwan of the 1980s. Consequently, the man leaves the tour group he’s traveling with and spends the rest of the year roaming among mountains and streams, looking for the country he knew and loved.
The story is a typical Ping Lu science-fiction tale, the author fully revealing her love and concern Taiwan. The protagonist reawakens in the future and returns to his homeland, looking for a place to settle down and get on with his life, yet at the same time the story raises questions about capitalism – Taiwan has been turned into an amusement park but life now seems meaningless, an ironic contrast to the man’s happy childhood memories of Disneyland.
In “Dream Awakening Song” Ping Lu expresses her concern for 1980s’ Taiwan. At that time Taiwanese were tripping over each other in pursuit of money, neglecting the depth of their own history and culture. Taiwan had become an assortment of postmodernist simulacra, and nature and the land had been commercialized and commodified. Hence, the story ends on a pessimistic note. Dressed in rags, his hair long and unkempt, the man searches everywhere but can’t locate his beloved Taiwan. One day, on the edge of a precipice he comes upon a stone stele commemorating the 2040 sale of Taiwan to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide. Faced with this reality, the man hums a little tune and leaps off the cliff, falling to his death in the Pacific Ocean. To Ping Lu, this is perhaps the outcome that Taiwanese of that era would usher in.
Wang Yuting, Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing Hua University
Ping Lu (1953- ) is the penname of Lu Ping, a native of Kaohsiung. The writer is a graduate of National Taiwan University’s Department of Psychology and holds a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Iowa. She has served as chief editor of the China Times Express literary supplement, editor-in-chief at the China Times, and director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong.
Ping Lu primarily writes fiction, but has also pens criticism and essays. She has received first prize in both the United Daily News Literature Awards and the first annual China Times Literature Award for Playwriting. Her published works include the short story collections Death in a Cornfield (1985), Brother Zhuang (1985), The Five Seals (1988), Five Notes on Red Dust (1989), Spycatcher (1992), To the Ends of the Earth (1995), Banned Book Revelation (1997), Hundred Year-Old Letter (1998), The “Creamy-skin” Hot Springs (2000), When Will You Come Again? (2002), East of the Orient (2011), and Dancing Island (2012). Other publications include the essays collections Mind-reading Book (2004) and Hong Kong Is No More (2009), and the play Who Killed XXX? (1991). Among her works, To the Ends of the Earth and When Will You Come Again? have been translated into other languages.
Ping Lu is a journalist, intellectual, political critic, and fiction writer. Early works such as “Death in a Cornfield” and “Brother Zhuang” featured male narrators; thus her work extends beyond the feminine narrative tradition, encompassing political, social, and identity issues. She has won praise for the form and structure of her fiction, and has expanded her generic range to include sci-fi and meta-fiction. Ping Lu’s 1990s’ fiction marked a turning point in her work, revealing a feminine perspective: To the Ends of the Earth deconstructs historical memories of the martial-law era, retelling the love story of Sun Yat-sen and Song Qingling; When Will You Come Again? is based on the life singing star Teresa Teng (Deng Lijun), re-presenting the harsh atmosphere of the martial law era and the struggle between Chinese Nationalists and Communists. A more recent work, East of the Orient, excavates the history of Taiwan’s Zheng (Koxinga) dynasty, the story a metaphor for contemporary cross-strait relations. In Dancing Island a 2000 scandal involving a high-ranking American diplomat is juxtaposed with a seventeenth-century Dutch governor’s love story, highlighting continuities in Taiwan’s historical predicament. Ping Lu’s works usually begin by presenting the history of family or nation, gradually focusing on women’s process of self-affirmation. With Taiwanese history as a backdrop, the writer probes gender issues, staying close to the country’s political and economic pulse. In developing the multidimensional aspects of history and identity, Ping Lu reveals the richness of Taiwanese women’s writing.
|Work(English)：||Dream Awakening Song|
|Anthology：||Death in the Cornfield|
|Publisher：||Taipei: INK Literary Monthly Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010199285|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|