LUO YIJUN (1967— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

LUO YIJUN (1967— )
The Dictionary

LUO YIJUN (1967— ). Fiction writer. Born and raised in Taiwan, Luo Yijun received his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the Chinese Culture University and his master’s from the National Taiwan Institute of Arts. As an undergraduate student, Luo studied under several established writers, including Zhang Dachun, whose postmodern style of writing had a strong impact on the budding writer. In 1993, Luo published his first book, Hong zi tuan (The League of the Red Letter), which contains six stories, most of which are metafiction focusing on narrative techniques, obviously influenced by such writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Zhang Dachun. A book published in 1998 whimsically entitled Qi meng gou (Wife Dreaming of the Dog) established a key feature of his style, an offshoot of the Japanese Shishosetsu—the I-novel, which has been appropriated by other Chinese writers, most notably Yu Dafu.

Charactristic of the I-novel, the first-person narrator of Luo’s stories resorts to unrelenting self-exposure and self-analysis of the most private, and often dark, world, and in so doing moves freely between the depth of his psychological state and external reality, merging the private with the public. Representative of this style of his work are Yueqiu xingshi (The Moon Tribe) and Qian beihuai (Expressions of Sorrow). The former is a collection of stories that explore the emotional attachment and the memories the author’s father’s generation has with the mainland they left behind when they came to Taiwan with the Nationalist government. The focus is on the son’s perception of his Taiwanese mother and mainlander father by “freezing” the flow of time in order to experience the intensity of emotions and feelings. Qian beiluai, a controversial work in the form of letters between the living (the narrator) and the dead (Qiu Miaojin, a lesbian writer who committed suicide), is a book on death and dying, a metaphysical reflection on the concept of time and the act of writing as an attempt to escape the doomed end. In theme and subject matter, this work is reminiscent of Zhu Tianwen’s Huang ren shouji (Notes of a Desolate Man).

Luo’s best work is generally agreed to be the two-volume Xixia lüguan (The Hotel of the Ancient Xixia Empire), a novel that pulls together and magnifies the narrative styles and themes of his previous works. At the root of the novel is his reflection of the dilemma faced by his generation of Chinese born in Taiwan to parents who fled the mainland in the 1950s, an existential condition that has been experienced by others in the history of humankind, including the ancient people who created Western Xia (1038—1227)—once a powerful empire with its own written language, culture, and political system—and dominated western China. This nomadic people, known as Dangxiang or Tangut, left almost no trace of their existence, and in many ways Luo’s father’s generation, cut off for decades from their homes, families, communities, and their native land, mirrors the Danxiangs, facing the threat of leaving no mark in the memories of their offspring. Indeed, Luo has remarked that his own generation may be the last one still retaining some attachment to the mainland and to the traditions of their fathers’ generation. As such, the population faces imminent extinction, as once happened to the Dangxiang. Luo’s novel weaves two plots, one having to do with a cavalry fleeing south as Western Xia was being destroyed by the Mongols and another following the second generation of the mainlanders in Taiwan. The author works with inventive narrative freedom, cutting sharply between the two time periods, subjecting reality to the time-bending torsions of memory and legends while pointing out that human history, or the memory of human history, is like a hotel that has put up travelers, each of whom may or may not have left behind a story, a fragmented story at best.

Luo is clearly one of the most imaginative writers coming out of Taiwan. His creativity, abundant imagination, unrestrained style, and provocative subjects of sexuality, violence, and dark family history have won him numerous awards, such as the Best Book Award given by Lianhe Daily, making him a significant figure in modern Chinese literature. Luo’s other fictional works include Disange wuzhe (The Third Dancer), Yuanfang (Faraway), and Women zi ye’an de jiuguan likai (At Night We Left a Dark Pub) as well as fairy tales, plays, and poetry.