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Bickering About Literature: The Meaning of "Taiwan Literature"

Li Ch'iao

Translated by Robert Smitheram


     Following the remarkable growth of social power in Taiwan society, it has been reported that there is a new controversy over the meaning of Taiwanese literature.  It has been further reported that this controversy erupted when certain critics from a certain institution began discussing an older writer with regard to the definition of Taiwanese literature.  As I myself have not yet perused these articles, I would not dare to pass any critical judgment on their arguments;  however, looking back ten years before the removal of martial law, I can see that in comparison to the indirect but clear pronouncements that all those literary writers made in the midst of the White Terror, today's sound and fury in the "bright light of the day"appears all the more vain and pretentious.

     In the July 1981 issue of Taiwanese Literature I published an article in two parts entitled "My View of Taiwanese Literature";  and in July 1983 in the same journal, I advanced my ideas further in "A Correct Interpretation of Taiwanese Literature." As it turns out, that was exactly ten years ago;  and taking stock of it all now and then, I can see that my views are still the same: "Taiwanese literature is that literature which takes the viewpoint of the people of Taiwan and which writes about Taiwanese experience."

     In regard to the explanation quoted above, I would like to make a further clarification:

        In literary creation, is it necessary to indicate a viewpoint?  If one is just speaking of "literature,"then a viewpoint need not be specified succinctly, because the matter is then just the actions of common individuals, one aspect of human phenomena.  However, once the concept is set off as "Taiwanese literature,"then it is prudent to clarify the viewpoint.  The reason is twofold:  First it has to do with Taiwan.  

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