Huang Fan is one of these, and he's done it more than once.
This book is a must read. Howard Goldblatt, University of Notre Dame, coeditor of Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts and The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature No writer better epitomizes the uncertainty and tumult of the s in Taiwan than Huang Fan, an author whose work runs the gamut from poignant and subtle political critique to postmodern metafictional experimentation and finally futuristic, visionary science fiction.
Few translators are up to the task as well as John Balcom, a seasoned and sensitive wordsmith who combines an understanding of the shades of meaning in the Chinese language with decades of experience in Taiwan and an artist's facility in English.
These subtly crafted stories leave a lasting impression that deepens with time. Zero immerses the reader in a society that simultaneously entices and entraps, inciting real confusion as to its actual workings. Written in the early s when Taiwan was an autocratic regime embedded in neoliberal globalization, the story transcends identifiable times and locales to masterfully query global power structures. By American standards, the novella is underdeveloped -- loads of padding could easily have been added, and certainly would have made for a richer picture -- but it's strong enough to impress even in this almost spare form.
Orthofer, The Complete Review Those stories, though, are good enough that we must hope that Balcom and others will make more of Huang Fan's abundant output available in English. David Cozy, Japan Times offers perspective on universal themes including technology, political authority, and the vulnerability of the individual in modern society. Perhaps more importantly, this compilation is an indication of the growing respect given to Taiwanese literature by Anglophone academia. Joseph Eaton, Taiwan Review The slimness of this new volume—comprising three short stories and one novella—belies an author of notable versatility and vision who is preoccupied by urgent questions of individualistic selfhood and its pitfalls, social interaction, cognitive dissonance and narrative strategy.
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The European Legacy. About the Author Huang Fan b. Areopagetica is one of the most potent defenses of free speech written, in Eikonoklastes and The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates he conceives of an inspiring radicalism, and of course the author of Paradise Lost could turn a phrase. And yet his political pamphlets when read today comes across as stiff and scholarly, as arguments built on an edifice of the knowledge of the great classics.
They ooze Latin and Greek. Milton can be stirring, he can be inspiring, he can light a love of liberty, but he can also be ponderous. It would be hard to argue that it was the pure power of direct, simple, and angry rhetoric that stays the life-blood of a nation, but perhaps or hopefully some of that working class rage of the dispossessed and ignored which threads its way through Common Sense is somehow to attribute to our survival.
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Milton was read widely, but he spoke in an educated tongue, a Cambridge man. Paine was a pub man; he spoke not to university dons but to the barkeep, the factory worker, the farmer. He wrote like an American. Less than a year later all thirteen colonies would declare their independence from Great Britain. Americans were already fighting the British in a revolution, but Paine made it the Revolution.
Like all true Revolutionaries he knew that America needed its Year Zero, and he reoriented and redefined what was at stake. No longer was this a small rebellion simply tied to anger over a few taxes here and there, petty grievances about expensive tea and playing cards to raise revenue to pay for a frontier war which in many ways the colonists started themselves. No, now this was about apocalypse, it was about Millennium, it was about making the world anew and redefining what it meant to be a person. Hector St. Rather his was a new creed, a new religion, for now the cause of America is the cause of all mankind.
Like all nations it has its good and bad, its idealists and its corrupt. A country bounded, like all nations, by a border of time and space. Its language is not that of legislation and treaties, rules and laws, but rather of myth and legend. America is not a place, nor has it every really existed, it is merely always in the process of coming into existence. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.
Thomas Paine understood the crucial point that America must never be a mere country, for it is much more; it is an idea, and a potent one.
It was the second time in his life he left his native England for radical causes across the sea. Left behind in Britain was the Rights of Man, which answered the objections to the revolution made by Edmund Burke, the comfortable father of contemporary conservatism. He was elected to the French Assembly, but his opposition to totalitarianism and his embrace of freedom was too consistent. But as they say stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage, and Paine found an America even within the Bastille.
It was here that he wrote The Age of Reason, the book scandalous and heretical enough that the newly holy of Second Great Awakening America would turn their back on the man who baptized their nation, and whose political ethos made their faith even possible.
Zero and Other Fictions
And this is how Thomas Paine found himself returned to the crooked streets of lower Manhattan, so different from the rational, rectilinear Enlightenment street grid of a few blocks north. In , when Washington died, Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning. Thousands of Americans felt intense grief at the death of their god, and they built an Egyptian pyramid to entomb him, after he lived through the construction of the capital which bared his name.
Ten years later when Tom Paine died like a common drunk most American newspapers merely reprinted the local obituary.
Only six people came to mark the passing of the man who named the United States of America, including two nameless black freedmen. On the Mall of that right-angled city of Roman marble there stands an occult obelisk in memory of Washington, and an American Pantheon holds a statue of Jefferson that is nineteen feet tall, but in the District of Columbia there is no memorial to Tom Paine. Washington and Jefferson are gods, but Paine is but a man, and the better for it. If you seek his memorial you must go to those places where people yearn for freedom, and are willing to fight for it.