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The Primary Issue for Taiwan Literature is Identifying with the Land

By P'eng Jui-chin

Translated by Mabel Lee


     Taiwan literature had been quietly developing in its own way until the outbreak of the literary storm of the 1970s.  The controversy over nativist literature precipitated hard thinking and rigorous scrutiny of what is denoted by Taiwan literature and what constitutes Taiwan literature.  Suddenly, this undefined literary appellation was the object of skepticism, harsh critical analysis, and over-zealous embrace.  As a result its former distinct features became blurred from being pulled to pieces and its former conceptualized knowledge underwent stringent and hypercritical analysis.  Obviously, historical mistakes have pushed Taiwan literature into taking this contradictory role and made this storm seem extremely lengthy as it moved through the process of emotional debate to dispassionate, clear-minded reflection.

     This is not in fact a bad thing for Taiwan literature.  Once the heated arguments and embraces have been put aside, it is then possible to address a number of very serious issues:  Is it possible for Taiwan literature to constitute an independent and autonomous entity?  And then following on immediately:  What is its genealogy?  How should it develop?  All of these matters merit proper consideration.  Multiplying problems overburden Taiwan literature, but this is the purgatory it must pass through.  Immediately following the debate on whether Taiwan literature can survive are numerous conflicting views about what constitutes Taiwan literature.  Hence Taiwan literature is required not simply to reflect upon its own historical neglect but also to re-evaluate its very substance.  Actually, at the very start, explaining its pedigree is problematical;  trying to secure both inner essence and long-term development for Taiwan literature from its complicated historical pedigree inevitably brings about hostile questions and well-meaning diversions.  Some people try to use its essential component, i.e., regional literature, to encompass everything whereas others try to use what is anathema to it, i.e., national literature, to give Taiwan literature a surge of new blood.  Clearly none of these adequately manifests the subtle and unique content of Taiwan literature, nor can they propel Taiwan literature towards broader horizons.

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