Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Sun Weimang’s “Faces, Bronze Faces” was first published on July 23, 1976, in the China Times Literary Supplement and later included in the collection Depression and Fanaticism. As one of the early writers of the military dependents’ village genre, Sun understood how people longed for the vanished life of these villages. While first generation Chinese immigrants yearned for their hometowns on the mainland, second-generation mainlanders born in Taiwan longed for a military dependents’ village culture that was rapidly disappearing.
“Faces, Bronze Faces” is set against the complex memories and emotions of a generation forced to watch their homes disappear while bearing both their parents’ burden of loss and a desire to integrate into local society. Whereas broadly written histories fail to depict the experiences of individuals, Sun shows that every single person’s story has its own complex history. In this unusually short work the writer manages to convey the second generation’s feelings toward their parents and their situation.
“Faces” is a dense work that puts the spotlight on the individual. “Perhaps you’ve noticed these Chinese children before,” it opens, and continues with accounts of daily lives that show the honor and the history, the bitterness and the pain of the time. Wrinkles on faces and strange accents from different parts of China reflect a glimpse into a distant homeland. The work is a window into the past, but also a window into the identity issues that have surrounded an entire generation. A major theme of the work is a feeling of powerlessness. The older generation cannot achieve its dream of returning home, while the younger generation can only “listen to stories, and sit and watch from the sidelines.”
Chung Chih-Wei, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Sun Weimang (b. 1955), penname Duyu, was born in Taoyuan, Taiwan, to a family originating from Sichuan, China. He graduated from the Department of Journalism at National Chengchi University. While at Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, Sun worked on the school journal. He was inspired to become a writer by Ziyu (the pen name of Fu Yu), his math teacher and a noted novelist. After university graduation Sun performed military service on the island of Jinmen; following discharge he served as a news editor at United Daily News.
Sun’s precocious talent emerged when he began publishing reviews, prose, and novels while still in high school and at university. His story “In Front of Longmen” was collected in Short Stories of ’76 (Elite Publishing Company). According to the collection’s editor, novelist Jiji, “In Front of Longmen” is an example of the “high-school literature” in vogue at the time, but with a mood of intense rebellion and driven thematically by historical reflection on family and country. The work also contains the main stylistic elements and primary concerns of Sun Weimang’s works throughout his career: a deep exploration of military dependents’ villages and the veterans who inhabit them. In his 1975 novel Hack, the author fuses a character named Rong with an old banyan tree, 1 implying a dual image of China/home. The story is told from the perspective of Little Chuan'er, a primary school student whose father is away from home. When the villagers persuade Rong to cut down the banyan tree so that a new building can be put up, the author describes in meticulous detail the child’s sense of love and protectiveness towards both tree and man. In his prose work Faces, Bronze Faces (1976), Sun Weimang uses a similar contrasting device to describe in great detail the gulf that separates him – a waishengren born and bred in Taiwan, from the “bronze-skinned ones,” who fought on the Mainland and suffered great hardship. He also describes his admiration for these veterans and his longing for China.
Sun Weimang has also written works of travel literature and reportage; in addition to his narrative works, he has also tried his hand at modern poetry – “Autumn Feeling” (1980) and “Indifferent Love Poem” (1981) were published in newspaper supplements. In “A Novelist Talks About Poetry” (1983) Sun discusses his genre-crossing experience of writing both fiction and poetry. His publications to date include the short-story collections In Front of Longmen (1977) and Carmen in Taiwan (1995), and Melancholy and Mania (1992), a book of essays.
1The Mandarin word for banyan is, like the character’s name, pronounced “rong.”
|Work(English)：||Faces, Bronze Faces|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen（《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》）|
|Publisher：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010249413|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.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.|