Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010
QIU MIAOJIN (1969—1995)
QIU MIAOJIN (1969—1995). Fiction and prose writer. Despite a short life, Qiu Miaojin has left behind a notable legacy in contemporary Chinese literature. Her writings, along with her tragic death, have shed new light on the predicament gays and lesbians faced in Taiwanese society despite the significant gains in the perception and acceptance of homosexuality made in urban Taiwan in recent decades. Qiu graduated from National Taiwan University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. While studying in Paris, she committed suicide. She left behind four books: Gui de kuanghuan (Revelries of Ghosts), Eyu shouji (Notes of an Alligator), Jimo de qunzhong (A Solitary Crowd), Mengmate yishu (Letters Written in Montmartre before Death), and a diary, Qiu Miaojin riji (Diary of Qiu Miaojin), the last two items posthumously published. Of these works, Eyu shouji is the best, generally considered a Chinese classic on lesbian culture, whose reputation is so widespread that the name of its main character, Lazi—coined from Les(bian)—has been adopted as a self-reference by Chinese lesbians. The allegorical, semi-autobiographical novel traces the four undergraduate years of Lazi’s life, as she ponders the dubious integrity of the self in relation to sexual identity and the role of writing—ideas that function for her as a means to explain away her emptiness and self-doubt as well as a way by which she can derive meaning out of a confused life. Lazi’s propensity for dark ruminations over her homosexual and homoerotic feelings is juxtaposed with the humorous, self-effacing disposition of the other main character, Alligator. Throughout the novel, Lazi’s first-person mythopoeic voice is frequently intersected by the lighthearted tone of Alligator, who represents an entity at odds with society, unsure of its sexual orientation and uncomfortable with its appearance, a strange species on the verge of extinction now being chased and gazed at by the public, a mirror image of Lazi. Both characters fade away after having been repeatedly persecuted, indicating that death and destruction are inevitable outcomes of a precarious existence.
Mengmate yishu contains 20 letters and journal entries Qiu wrote in France shortly before she took her own life. They are distressed professions of her strong feelings for the woman who betrayed her. The outpouring of her innermost emotions and the description of her tortured experience trying to come to terms with her lover’s betrayal reveal her views on the meaning of love, life, and art, and paint a self-portrait of the author as she struggled desperately between salvation and destruction. Similarly, Qiu Miaojin riji is also self-writing at its most candid. On the other hand, both Gui de kuanghuan and Jimo de qunzhong are collections of short stories about an alienated and rebellious population rejected by mainstream society. At the heart of Qiu’s work lies the author’s recognition that the nature of passion and love intensifies human existence in both its most beautiful and most monstrous moments.