Tsai Yahsun, Professor, Department of Applied Language and Culture, National Taiwan Normal University
The short story “Yearning for Flying” was published on July 15, 1976 in the United Daily News supplement. The work is a tragic tale of a friend, who like the author studied abroad, but ultimately chose to end his own life.
Shen Cong, the story’s protagonist, is a Chinese student studying in America. Because of heavy financial pressures and an insurmountable language barrier, Shen drops out of school and goes to work in a restaurant. Worn down by the dull and monotonous daily routine, at night he dreams he is being pursued by a dark shadow. In the beginning, Shen is like everyone else, filled with dreams of a wonderful life in New York City, but existence in the metropolis is so stressful he can’t even write home to let his family know how he feels.
Shen looks forward to Monday, his day off, when goes to the movies or to Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan Island to ponder his life. There he reads the inscription on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor… the homeless.” Shen Cong is aware that the black shadow following him in his nightmares is a reflection of his powerlessness, fear, and fatigue. At the park he spots a seagull flying high overhead, and remembers a time when he was six years old, flying a kite in a village in a seaside village in northern China, living a carefree, unfettered life. When he returns from his reverie, he discovers that a stranger is staring at him, and they begin to chat. The stranger suggests they go for a drink at a neighborhood tavern. Despondent, Shen Cong gets drunk and is taken by the stranger to a dark room. Shen feels a damp body rubbing against him but is powerless to struggle free. In the end he no longer resists, falling sleep.
Shen Cong doesn’t remember how he escaped from the dark room, nor does he recall slipping past the security guard of a mid-Manhattan skyscraper. Standing on a ledge on the sixty-fifth floor, Shen feels the caress of the breeze, and recalls the seagull’s free flight and kite-flying as a child. In the end he flaps his arms, closes his eyes tightly and leaps off into space…
Cong Su excels at using metaphors and symbols to depict characters’ inner worlds, symbolically portraying the plight of Chinese studying abroad. “Flight” is a symbol: Shen Cong, has flown from childhood to adulthood; from China to Taiwan, and then on to America. But he has fallen from the peak of his dreams into the abyss of reality; in the end he climbs to the top of a building and flies toward the ground below, flying toward freedom.
Zhong Zhiwei, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Cong Su (1936- ) is the penname of Cong Yezi, a native of the city of Wendeng in China’s Shandong province. The writer came to Taiwan in 1949 and enrolled in National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1955. After graduating in 1960 she went to America for further study, first at the University of Washington in Seattle and then at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in library science. She held a post at the Rockefeller Library and also served as International P.E.N. Women Writers’ Committee representative to the United Nations.
Cong Su took up writing in her teens, publishing in the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News and China Daily News supplements, and editor Xia Jian’s Literary Review. While she was studying in America, Pai Hsien-yung invited her to publish her short story “Hunting Blind” in Modern Literature magazine. These early works were collected in The White Net (1969) and Autumn Mist (1972). Because of her mother’s death and the chaotic international political situation, between 1966 and 1976 Cong stopped writing. She began to write fiction again in the latter half of 1976, stories that were collected in Yearning for Flying (1977). In 1977 She returned to Taiwan for the first time since leaving for America. Inspired by her native language and culture produced the short-story collection Chinese People (1978).
Compared with earlier works, Cong Su’s 1970s stories dealt with a wider range of subject matter, displaying distinct ethnic feelings, the difference no doubt related to the writer’s diasporic experience. However, critics still regard her early efforts as her finest work – “Hunting Blind” has appeared in both the Ouyang Zi and Ke Qingming editions of Modern Literature magazine’s “Selected Stories.” Thus, the 1960s’ Cong Su is regarded as a classic example of a young writer in the tradition of Kafka, vividly expressing the existentialist thought prevalent in the intellectual world of the time.
|Work(English)：||Yearning for Flying|
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》|
|Author：||Cong Su (Tsung Su)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010041419|
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.|