Tsai Yahsun, Professor, Department of Applied Language and Culture, National Taiwan Normal University
One of the author’s representative works, Philip Chou’s “The Big Event of the Week” deals with the lives of immigrants living in the USA. The story first appeared in the China Times “Human World” supplement in October 1985, winning the newspaper’s fiction award and gaining attention in Chinese literary circles the world over.
The story is told by a first-person narrator who moves with his family to Los Angeles in 1983 tells. In LA he rents a storefront on skid row and goes into the wholesale furniture business He and his tough-minded wife have two children, Qiangqiang, a boy age five, and Zhen-zhen, a girl of four.
New to the US, the narrator works seven days a week, ten hours a day, eating only a simple breakfast to save time and energy. Because he is busy earning a living, he gradually begins to neglect his husbandly duties. To preserve marital harmony, he and his wife agree to have sex once a week, on Saturday night – “the big event of the week.” But they often quarrel over family finances and the “big event” keeps getting postponed; moreover, in adapting to American life his wife becomes stronger and more assertive, reflecting the narrator’s weakness. Driven by desire and a sense of self-honor, when business is slow he flirts with Maria, a Latina customer, in the furniture store’s warehouse.
The story climaxes when the narrator’s wife’s discovers that fifty watches are missing from the warehouse and reveals that she has all along been aware of her husband’s relationship with Maria. The narrator expects his wife to fly into a rage, but she unemotionally states that Maria is a customer and not worth blaming. Besides, the “big event” couldn’t be carried out in the warehouse, so she turned a blind eye to her husband’s flirtations with the Latina. Who knew the narrator’s carelessness would allow Maria would make off with the watches? Ashamed of his waywardness and furious at being fooled by Maria, the narrator instantly loses his manly honor. In the end, daughter Zhenzhen develops a stomachache – a reminder that the trivialities of daily life must still be attended to.
Philip Chou uses comedy and satire to highlight immigrants’ hardships, taking the mundane realities of life in a new country and turning them into living vignettes, interesting and appealing. The “big event of the week” is sex – the thing the husband and wife can’t seem to get around to in the midst of their busy lives; the more nonchalant the story’s tone, the stronger and clearer the contrast with the cruel facts. The writer chose a first-person narrator to avoid third-person insinuations and doubts, a “self-mocking” strategy that resonated with readers. Chou’s fiction often treats issues of immigrant life, employing eating or sexual disorders to underline the pressures of earning a living in a new country. By looking into a husband and wife’s sex life, the author highlights the comedy and awkwardness of their plight; “The Big Event of the Week” reveals the difficulties immigrants encounter, reflecting the emotional pain of Chinese who relocate to other lands.
Wang Liru, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Languages and Culture, National Taiwan Normal University
Zhou Feili (1936-2003) was born in Shanghai to a family hailing from China’s Sichuan province. He came to Taiwan in 1947 and after graduating from National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures worked as deputy director in a foreign company, business officer in the Australian embassy, and a translator for American military in Okinawa. In 1976 he moved with his family to the Los Angeles area, where he spent his later years, operating a clothing store and writing.
Zhou Feili excelled at turning his bitter experience as an immigrant into comic essays, playful but not mocking, the sadness of immigrant life in America frequently flashing through the wry humor. In 1985 Zhou’s short story “The Big Event of the Week” took top honors in the China Times Literary Awards’ fiction category, winning accolades in Chinese-language literary circles at home and abroad. Subsequently, Zhou received the China Daily News Literature Award and a host of other writing prizes.
Zhou’s fiction chronicles the hardships of Chinese-American immigrants engaged in various lines of work, viewing the interactions and conflicts of Eastern and Western cultures through the crevices of daily life. For example, in “Western Food Two Styles” Zhou writes, “Americans don’t give me food to eat, I give them food to eat,” a self-mocking depiction of the resourcefulness and tenacity of an immigrant working to survive in a new land. In “Big Event of the Week” a couple’s sex life and business affairs profile immigrants’ fortunes and misfortunes.
Zhou Feili’s published works include the short story collections Western Food Two Styles (1987), Divorce Anniversary (1992), and the essay collections Kidding Myself (1989), Marriage Test (1997), Humor Opens Doors (2005), Humor Away from Home (1996), and Funny as I Want to Be (2000).
|Work(English)：||The Big Event of the Week|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》|
|Author：||Zhou Feili (Philip Chou)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.elitebooks.com.tw/front/bin/ptdetail.phtml?Part=A193|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “elitebooks.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.taipen.org/the_chinese_pen/the_chinese_pen_03.htm|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|