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Date 2022-02-18


Historical Memory and Traumatic Writing: Kwang-chih Chang's The Story of A Taiwanese Man and Representation Mechanism of Chang's Novels in the 1980s


Lo, Shih-Yun

Assistant Professor, School of General Education, Chihlee University of Technology


Kwang-chih Chang was a renowned archaeologist and anthropologist and also the son of Wo-chun Chang, a pioneer of Taiwan New Literature Movement. Kwang-chih Chang returned to Taiwan from Beijing in the end of 1946 and was later sent to prison because of his involvement in the April 6th incident. After he was released from the prison, he dedicated himself to anthropology research and carried out a study in the United States. He published several works in Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News in the early stage of the postwar period and had been publishing novels under the pseudonym of Hsiang Wu until the 1980s. His memoir The Story of A Taiwanese Man describes his early life, how he ended up in prison because of the April 6th incident, and the unique postwar history of Taiwan. His postwar works portray his life history in Beijing during the war and in Taiwan after the war, intertwined with the documentation and traumatic memories of the generation. Accordingly, this paper focuses on Chang's memoir The Story of A Taiwanese Man and his novels published in the 1980s, with supplementary discussion on novels and essays of other authors in the early stage of the postwar period, to reveal the historical memory and traumatic writing of this Taiwanese man wandering among China, Taiwan, and the United States. This paper first demonstrates the social situation in the early stage of the postwar period and Chang's life experiences. It continues by discussing descriptions in The Story of A Taiwanese Man about the situations in Beijing during wartime and in Taiwan from after the war to the imposition of martial law, including his traumatic experience in wartime life, the February 28 incident, and the April 6th incident. By comparing this memoir with his novels in the 1980s, this paper analyzes the interaction between and reorganization of Chang's life memory and literary representation to reflect on how traumatic writing has been transformed into meaningful cultural criticism and self-healing. With Chang's writing, this paper is intended to reshape the nation's fractured history and more importantly grasps the mental images of Taiwanese people in the early postwar period, which contributes to the retrospective reflection on the Taiwanese society then.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature