Attempts to Author the Sunflower Student Movement

Was waiting for a friend at a bookshop and was flicking through a few titles when I saw these volumes about the Sunflower Student Movement. The first one I picked up was this:

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The cover looked OK, but my heart sank a little when I saw that the dedication was to Benedict Anderson… and sank even more when the opening sentence featured Marx…

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How very politics student circa 1989. I guess that’s why they called it a student movement. The chapters are each written by different people, but it seems quite dense in style and heavy with academic aspirations as opposed to aiming for readability. That said my friend arrived before I was able to get any kind of measure of it.

There were another two as well, and they seemed a little more aimed at the general reader:

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Anyone had a read of them or would recommend?

I also read a chapter of Luo Yu-chia’s (羅毓嘉) new book You’re my stove light in dark days (天黑的日子你是爐火). It was a little bit too much navel gazing for my taste, discussing his romance with a Hong Kong man. As Luo is a gay rights advocate the Hong Kong man’s unwillingness to adopt a gay identity is challenging for him. The chapter I read showed him attempting to justify the lack of recognition with humour and by insisting that non verbal markers like wanting Luo to be well fed shows affection where words do not. The romance wasn’t very engaging for me, and I didn’t find the Hong Kong guy very likeable as Luo sees him.

Shamelessly Ashamed: 「不恥」or 「不齒」 Part 3

I previously posted two blog posts  looking at how 「不恥」 and 「不齒」 are used as homonyms to mean “shame” in Ruan Ching-yue’s short story ‘The Conman’ (translation available here) and in A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (review available here), despite the former actually meaning “unashamed”. This suggested that most Taiwanese now use 「不恥」 rather than 「不齒」 , while reading 《斷代》 by writer Kuo Chiang-sheng however, I discovered a counterexample:

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In this sentence, 「不齒」 is used as follows:

…展現的仍是令開放的同類不齒的無知與無奈…

… showing still the ignorance and helplessness that is such a source of shame for those gay people who are open…

The book is really good so far and I’d definitely recommend it.

Fake it ’til you make it: Inappropriate wordplay using characters from Jin Yong’s martial arts novels

1280px-Gay_Pride_Taiwan_2009If you’ve been in Taiwan for a substantial period of time but didn’t grow up here, chances are you’ve sat on the outskirts of an hilarious conversation involving characters from the books of martial arts novelist Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha) during which you’ve had completely no idea what was going on, or what the jokes were about. This has been my fate on several occasions, as, although I’ve bought several volumes of Jin Yong’s novels, I’ve never mustered up the courage to commit to reading a whole one and they’re currently rotting on my shelves. Given that generations of teenagers in Taiwan have read most of the Jin Yong canon, there are a lot of mainstream cultural references that revolve around these books.
When listening to this rather racy podcast on four Taiwanese guys’ experience of “romantic” dalliances with gay foreigners in Taiwan (click here to download it directly or click on 「台灣及其他國家」 under the 「收聽下載點」 section after following the link), I was perplexed when everyone started laughing at one point in the podcast over the nickname that one of the hosts had adopted for the show: 「獨孤求幹」. “Lonely, asking to be fucked” is the literal reading of the nickname, but this in itself was too crude to inspire so much mirth. The wit (well, you can call it wit), comes because the phrase is a corruption of the name of a Jin Yong character, 「獨孤求敗」”Lonely in search of defeat”. He has this name because he is so expert at swordplay that he wants to be defeated just to find someone who is on par with his skill.
Now the joke is starting to become a lot clearer – swordplay, seeking someone equally skilled at… There we go.
For those still none the wiser: The 「幹」 meaning “fucking” suggesting that he is a master at it, but is looking for someone that can beat him in terms of skill and, here, suggests that he could be turned from a “top” to a “bottom” if he found someone more skilled at it.
I’ve found that in Chinese tones being the same, ie 敗bai4 and 幹gan4 both being fourth tones, tends to be more important in wordplay than rhyme or off-rhyme as in English.
Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience in finding a Jin Yong reference that you just didn’t get.
Quick note that the podcast contains some very adult content.
Lead photo credit: Liu Wen-cheng

‘The Pretty Boy from Hanoi’ by Roan Ching-yue 阮慶岳的〈河內美麗男〉

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Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart. This is a short story taken from City of Tears (哭泣哭泣城 kuqi kuqi cheng, 2002) by Roan Ching-yue (阮慶岳) , an architect and professor based in Taipei.

Can I still be heart-broken

He arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon. He didn’t know what to do, so he just wandered around the busy districts and the little alleys near Hoan Kiem Lake, buying a few things for the sake of it, then an old opera house building towering at the end of the street drew him over; there were people queuing up to buy tickets at the booth, he approached and asked a woman what was going on, she said it was an event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of something, and that there was an opera performance from Paris, she said it would be really good and that he shouldn’t miss it.

There was still some time remaining after he’d bought the ticket, and after turning a few corners he came across a beer garden where he sat down to order a drink; there were a few western patrons scattered throughout the bar, mostly in couples or in groups, he was sitting alone, feeling a strange unsettling feeling of not knowing where to direct his gaze. He was still unable to convince himself that he was already here in Hanoi, or indeed of the reasons why he had come, it didn’t seem that this was the course his life should be running, but he really sitting here now, it was strange but inescapable.

The sky darkened suddenly, he paid the bill and then made his way gradually back to the opera house. Along the road there were young pedlars, one of them wouldn’t go away and followed him through a few alleys, a beggar woman urged her daughter, who couldn’t have been older than three or four years old, to hold on tight to his trouser leg; this all made him rather uncomfortable, he had a french opera to enjoy, if only these people, the onslaught of which he was helpless against, would stop appearing in front of him, in the square in front of the opera house he could still see the young policeman standing at attention, indifferently looking on without seeing, he even began to feel resentment against the Vietnamese government for allowing these two completely different worlds to coexist, such inappropriate neighbours with no way to avoid clashing. Continue reading