Lin Fang-mei, Professor, Department of Taiwanese Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
How can your enemy be loveable? How can someone you love become an enemy? Xu Kunquan’s 1936 work My Loveable Enemy, an exploration of this paradox, earned its place as a classic among love-struck men and women of 1930s Taiwan.
Serialized in the Taiwan New People’s Newspaper from 1935 to 1936, My Loveable Enemy features both literary language and earthy, colloquial dialogue. The novel became even more popular after Taiwanese author Zhang Wenhuan translated it into Japanese in 1938.
A diversity of characters and themes and multiple plotlines characterize the story, which tells the tale of a married man, Zhizhong, and a married woman, Qiuqin, as well as the love that develops between their children. Three interwoven love stories begin with Zhizhong and Qiuqin, young lovers forced against their wishes to marry others. Reunited in midlife after losing their spouses, they find themselves unable to connect through the pain of loss, leaving the unfinished love story to be carried on by Zhizhong’s son, Ping-er, and Qiuqin’s daughter, Liru. A third plotline follows Qiuqin’s eldest son, Aguo, and Huiying, a wealthy young woman of Japanese descent, whose relationship reveals the complexities of Taiwanese-Japanese interactions.
The positive reception to My Loveable Enemy was due as much to it creative use of language as to its multilayered plot. Throughout the narrative, Xu predominately uses modern Chinese but punctuates it with elements of both Taiwanese and classical literary Chinese. Thus, in spite of Xu’s reluctance to enter into the literary debates of the time – modernism vs. tradition, and the use of colloquial Taiwanese – the novel does showcase the different literary trends that were then in vogue.
Xu uses the struggle between social classes, the difficulties of moving on after a spouse’s death, and the transformation from playmates to passionate lovers in order to to examine issues of gender equality. He addresses the reader directly in a sort of public lecture inspired by silent film orators (known in Japan as benshi) and speakers of the day. He uses this direct form of address to advocate elevating of the status of women, freedom in choosing a romantic partner, and social reform.
In the 1930s, Taiwan experienced unprecedented levels of prosperity, thanks to the development of commerce and industry. Free love allowed men and women of the time to explore their passions and experience the torments of love as never before. The setting of the novel in such a time and place, and the inclusion of novelties such as dance halls, cinemas and parks, helped to make My Loveable Enemy a hit among urban readers.
Huang Mei-E, Professor and Director, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Xu Kunquan (1907-1954), a native of the Penghu Islands (Pescadores), went by the penname “Ah Q’s Kid Brother,” a reference to the protagonist in The True Story of Ah Q by the celebrated Chinese writer Lu Xun.
When he was still very young, Xu moved with his family to Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan. There he studied at the Liu Hong Xuan Academy, directed by the noted Confucian scholar Chen Xiru, also a Penghu native. Xu later moved to Taipei in northern Taiwan. Upon reaching his teens, he packed his bags again to study at Ying Wa College in Xiamen, China, as well as at the Diocesan School in Hong Kong. He eventually graduated from St. John’s University in Shanghai.
Upon completion of his studies, Xu served as foreign correspondent for the Taiwan New People’s Newspaper, a position that sent him to Japan and Southeast Asia. In 1935 he was stationed in Taipei, where served as editor for the newspaper’s arts and culture column. He subsequently published several works of fiction, including Hidden Reefs, My Loveable Enemy, and The Way of Body and Soul, all of which were warmly received.
Xu’s stint at the newspaper ended in the spring of 1937 due to the paper’s discontinuation of its Chinese-language column. He moved to China in search of job opportunities, assuming a managerial position in Changsha with the Yong’an Tang Company (producer of Tiger Balm), but returned to Taiwan after being accused of spying for the Japanese. In October 1937 he joined Wind and Moon News, serving as chief editor for issues 50 to 77. He left that position at the end of 1938, going once more to China, where he served as an advisor for Wang Jingwei’s Japan-friendly Peace Preservation Corps.
After returning to Taiwan, Xu was involved in a failed push for independence that took place on August 15, 1945 – the day after Japan surrendered its authority over Taiwan – but was absolved of wrongdoing. He later ran the Wen Shi Ge Hotel in Beitou, Taipei, and in 1950 was selected as a member of the Historical Research Commission of Taiwan Province, where he and author Liao Han-chen co-wrote the literary section of the Taiwan Provincial Gazetteers.
Xu Kunquan is remembered as a writer of vernacular rather than literary Chinese. His works focus on love, money, marriage, the relationship between the sexes, and intergenerational conflicts. Issues of the day also figured prominently in his writings, which are critical of both traditional society and modern civilization alike. One of the few Taiwanese writers of his time to show an interest in western religion, Xu is noteworthy for his praise of Christianity.
|Work(English)：||My Lovable Enemy|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.avanguard.com.tw/|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Avanguard Publishing Company|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|