Gan Zhaowen, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The short story “The Last Hunter” deals mainly with ethnic and cultural conflict, using the portrayal of a Bunun hunter’s daily encounters to reveal the collective predicaments presently facing Taiwan’s indigenous people.
The male protagonist, Biyari, comes from a family of shamans and is himself renowned as a brave and deadly hunter. However, times have changed, and economic necessity compels him to leave the mountains to find work as a laborer. When he later suffers from prejudicial treatment at the hands of his employer, he returns to the tribal village, thinking that he will be able to resume his ancestral life of farming and hunting. But with the nationalization of the tribal lands, the people’s traditional hunting ground has gradually disappeared. Not only has he lost his former territory, hunting itself has been labeled barbaric and brutal behavior and is now proscribed.
At home, he has to endure his wife’s sneers and taunts that he is good-for-nothing and unable to earn a living; outside, he is constantly at the mercy of the rich and powerful. In interactions with Han people, he is denied even the slightest human dignity, and he aches to return to the pure and selfless embrace of Mother Nature, where the even the simplest skills can be used to feed his family. But his hunting knowledge and abilities have no place in the contemporary capitalist environment. Thus, in the end Biyari can do nothing but fantasize endlessly about the old glory days. He takes his half-finished “hunter’s dream” and enters the real world, finding himself on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
The policeman in the story is greedy and corrupt, a finely tuned instrument of state power who menaces Biyari with highfalutin rules and regulations, forcing him to hand over his prey simply to satisfy the officer’s greed. After confiscating Biyari’s hard-won munjac deer, the policeman changes his tune and tells him, not without pity, “You should change your name and make a fresh start. Stop calling yourself a hunter…” Superficially this sounds like friendly advice, but beneath the surface is an undercurrent of ruthlessness. Indigenous Taiwanese peoples have long had political controls imposed on them from the outside, and each change of name is not merely a change of identity but also a rejection of the past and a forced assimilation into an alien and essentially colonialist cultural system that leaves them truly nameless and rootless. Take Biyari’s mournful monologue: “[Government officials] should come and listen to the birds and beasts and the wind and falling leaves; they should go to the valley to see the magnificent cliffs; they should take off their shoes and put their feet in the water and watch the fish swimming in the unpolluted water, unafraid of people. They would unravel the enigma of the forest and, like sinners condemned to hell, they would regret their previous lack of understanding in seeing the forest as nothing but a source of timber.” Mountain landscapes and forests are frequently evoked in poetic passages. In addition to criticism, the author subtly evokes the inner helplessness of a people whose traditional way of life is on the verge of extinction.
Topas Tamapima (b. 1960; Chinese name Tian Yage), a member of the Bunun aboriginal group, was born into the Take-Tokun Tribe in Nantou County’s Xinyi Township. He was graduated from Kaohsiung Medical College (now Kaohsiung Medical University).
While at university he began publishing his poetry under his Chinese name in Amoeba, a journal of poetry. In 1984, together with other aboriginal and Han intellectuals, he founded the Taiwan Association for the Promotion of Indigenous Rights.
He started to receive attention with his short story “Topas Tamapima,” and in 1981 he won second place in the fiction category of the Kaohsiung Medical College Nanxing Literature Prize. Thereafter publishing under his tribal name, he won the Wu Choliu Literature Prize in 1986 for his short story “The Last Hunter.” In July 1987 he applied to work in the Lanyu Public Health Center on the outlying Orchid Island, where he would fight to improve medical resources. In 1988 he received the Lai He Literature Prize for his prose collection Memoirs of a Lanyu Doctor. Other works include A Lover and A Prostitute (1992).
In 1992 he requested a transfer to the Public Health Center in Kaohsiung County’s Sanmin District (now Namasia District). In 1996 he applied for transfer to Taoyuan District Public Health Center, also in Kaohsiung County, and in 1998 he applied once more for transfer, taking a position as doctor at the Public Health Center in Taitung County’s Changbin Township. Topas Tamapima was a state-financed medical student and has volunteered to work in remote areas, giving front-line medical service in various mountain aborigine areas. For this, he has been called the Albert Schweitzer of Taiwanese aborigines – a comparison he invited with his Memoirs of a Lanyu Doctor., the book’s name echoing the Chinese translation of the title of Schweitzer’s autobiography.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=4517
|Work(English)：||The Last Hunter|
|Anthology：||Indigenous Writers of Taiwan: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems (Modern Chinese Literature|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Columbia University Press|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://star.morningstar.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Morning Star Publishing Inc.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://goo.gl/rVcmhp|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||The "www.amazon.com" Internet Bookstore|