On the freedom of speech, and the freedom of press, getting BANNED, for writing “unacceptable contents”, translated…
Maybe, the Whole Thing is, More Complicated than You and I Ever Imagined, there are, the Unknown Awful Parts of All Sorts of Occupations, Why would the Literary Scene be Any Different? One is the Secrets Untold of the Chiang’s Family, the Other, Male Love, We’d, Written Both Out, Perhaps, that Was, What’s, Most Important………
a photo of the author, Ping Lu, photo from online…
Ping Lu: We’d shared, an even earlier connection, perhaps, you’d, forgotten.
Actually, it, had almost, escaped from me, completely too, until March, as Jiji wrote, “Things that Happened Before Angry Horse Came to Visit”. After I’d read it, I was, shocked, to find, that back then, what happened, didn’t just, affect, the two of us, it’d also, included how she was, booted out, of the Life’s News editor-in-chief post.
Jiji wrote in the article, “Ping Lu’s “Who Murdered So-and-So”, was grilled by Mr. Ji-Zhong Yu, “It shouldn’t have won that award in the first place!”, and, Chian-Sen Kuo who’s “Unrelated to Gender” was scapegoated, and was banned, from getting published, and put on stage.———Such, an awful end, for the Drama Awards, but the process was surely, with the real ups and downs, like a drama too!”
In 1990, the China Times had it’s first “Drama Awards”, and, other than awarding monetary prizes, the scripts that were selected were, printed, and performed, at the 40th Anniversary of the papers, at the awards ceremonies. In July of that year, the papers posted the results. Chiang-Sen, do you remember it? Your “Not about the Genders”, and My “Who Murdered So-and-So”, shared the first prize trophies.
I was writing a story within a story, the show’s director, having flirtations with the female lead off stage, and in front, it was, a show of the romance shared by Chiang Ching-Kuo, and Ya-Ruo Chang. Jiji, in her article, recalled, she’d realized, how the owner of the newspaper, Mr. Yu put Chiang Ching-Kuo on a high pedestal, and, as he saw the results, “Who Murdered XXX”, he’d felt, ill at ease, asked Jiao Tong to call me, and asked my writer, to amend the stories. I’d told him clearly, the story is, AS IS. Jiji told the editor-in-chief; the editor-in-chief turned to Mr. Yu, for the final decisions.
In Jiji’s article, she’d, recollected, “‘This sort of writing shouldn’t even have won in the first place’.”, the eighty-year-old Mr. Yu, sat behind that big desk in his study, with the copy of “Who Murdered XXX”, smacked at his desk three times hard, grilled me, “This sort of a draft, didn’t you read it first? You should’ve, pulled it, and how can you, let it win an award?”
“ ‘No matter what, Mr. Chiang Ching-Kuo, had made HIS contributions to Taiwan, and his sons, are both, very hardworking too,’ Mr. Yu leaned toward his chair, ‘I’d heard, that John Chiang was about to become the second to foreign affairs, how can our paper be printing this sort of news that can cause outrage?………”, Mr. Yu’s tone was, smoother then, “Well, the prize money shall still be, rewarded, but the show can’t be performed, no publicity, understood?’”
Chiang-Sen, surely, you’d, not known about this, that I would, implicate you, the performances and the publication posted in the original notices were, canceled. As I read that article by Jiji, to me, what’s most weird was, at around the same time, I was called, into Mr. Yu’s office, he looked very gentle and mild, and, asked me to empathize, he said, that in the KMT officer’s council, he is, one of the few who are, open about things, the old-school sect are always, waiting, for him, to foul up. In my memories, Mr. Yu told me of his support of my play, it’s just, that the outside world is too dangerous, he couldn’t, hold it all down for me! To this day, I’d still recalled how lost I’d felt, walking out of his office that day, and still, for an eighty-year-old newspaper editor, to pour his heart out like that to me, he was, so very, sincere, how can I, say no?
That, was a once-in-a-lifetime drama award, it’d never, happened again. As the years passed, I’d not known, that there were, the aftermath effects, then, the consequences came, because of my fouling up, Jiji had been, kicked off her editor-in-chief post, because of my work! In March, as I read through that article that she’d penned down, other than feeling awful for what happened to her, I’d felt, it’s odd, how Mr. Yu was, so very, different, in front of me, versus in front of my editor-in-chief, Jiji. Chiang-Sen, there were, a lot of things, I still, couldn’t, quite understand, all I can say, is that in that era, of being open, it’s easier, to be a person, who’s, consistent, inside AND out.
Looking back through the years, the older generations had weathered through wars, and had a ton of considerations to handling the matters, and, in the authoritarian age those who, survived, find it hard, to be truly, happy, to, be righteous, on some level too, love is, hard too, I suppose. Including that play I’d penned, who did, Ruo-Ya Chang wrong? And, who, murdered him? I didn’t know, that there was, that scent of murder, hidden in the society back then.
It’s all, bygones now, a bit, sorrowful as I thought on it. That clue from the older days, made us into, two grasshoppers, with fates, connected.
So, this experience just showed, how closed-in Taiwan was back then, there was NO free speech, freedom of the press, blah, blah, blah, on the surfaces, you’re, free to write WHATEVER you want to right, but, it’s the rights, of the editors-in-chief, to EX out your work, if s/he felt, you might offend some high-up officials, and, we’re still, NOT too far from those days of old right now either.
and here’s, Chiang-Sen Kuo, photo from online as well…
Chiang-Sen Kuo: In 1990, I remembered, it was, the fortieth anniversary, of the publishing of China Times, and, there was, a drama award set up especially…………at age 26, I was, attracted to the award, by the high prize money that it’d offered, as a student studying abroad, worrying about money, when I heard that my entry had won, I was, so happy, going to receive the awards. The awards ceremony was held at Shangri-La Hotel, with Mr. Huai-Ming Lin as the host, everybody was there, but, I didn’t, see you. As they’re, about, to announce the winners for the Drama, your name, Ping Lu was announced, back then, being as young as I was, I’d felt, odd, and, would’ve, never guessed at, what had, happened.
I’d, returned back to New York for my classes immediately, and later on, I’d heard, the news of what actually happened from all around, learned, that you’d, written a script, on the death, of Ya-Ruo Chang. After that, I’d stopped, entering inot ANY literary award calls. This whole thing made me realized, that winning an award was only, temporary. But the purpose of why I wrote, nobody has a say on.
“About the Genders”, was the very FIRST that won two literary awards on TWO major newspapers on the subject of homosexuals, it was, the very first time, that I’d, come, face-to-face, with this, in my own life. In 1993, the Crowns Publishing Group was preparing for its 40th anniversary, I’d thought of, writing up a script, to celebrate it too. (Coincidentally, it was, the fortieth anniversary), on April’s Relativity of Literature, with Spencer Tsai and Man-Juan Chang, they’d both, talked about, their experiences in performing in “Not about the Genders” from back then, I was so moved when I read. So, they’d, remembered it, that summer, those grand times, they’d, rehearsed…………
Back then, the three main characters, Man-Juan Chang, Spencer Tsai, and Loic Hsiao, were all, idols of the printing press, and, they were all, willing, to disregard their reputations, and portrayed the roles I’d, written, challenging this, tabooed subject. With their support, it’d, made this play very well known. During that year, “The Diary of a Wasted Man”, “The Crocodile Diaries”,…………had yet, to come out!
Following all of this, Taiwan did, become, more opened, but I’d, quieted down, stopped publishing, for ten years. Because, the political correctness sprouted up, whether it be homosexuality, sexuality, local, historical………, all of these written subjects, became, formatted. Ping Lu, I’m sure, that you must agree, that in the impacts of taboos, the literatures will, have that ring of truth to it. On the surfaces, everything seemed good to go, nothing is tabooed, what power does, literature have?
Some night, I’d, bumped into a student who was in the drama department, he’d recognized me, and told me emotionally, that before gender equality, the professor of the drama department in his school selected, “About the Genders” as their assignment. “Through your words, I’d, heard myself, for the very, first time, spoken the words I never could speak before, I finally know, what kind of a person I want to become…………you’d, changed my life!”
After the play became, out of print, at that moment, that stranger had, changed my life. I’d, started, writing again. Because I knew, that there is still, a lot, of truths, that hadn’t, come out, yet. And, although no more books were, being banned today, there are still, so many, “politically correct”, and “public opinions”, dictating what should be, printed, isn’t it?
Who says, that second-generation of immigrants from China couldn’t write about Taiwan under Japanese rule? And so, I’d, finished, “The Lost Man at Home”. The losses of homosexuals from thirty years back, don’t they deserve, to get, re-examined again? And so, “Broken from the Generations” came out…………… “Why not Get Serious, Feeling Loss?”, and my latest, “I Will Be Going Off Soon”, I’d, challenged myself, to change my style of writing of novels to essays, bravely, face, the enmeshment with my next-of-kin, along with being single, taking care, of my aging father, the true stories of my own life………
Ping Lu, you had a novel called, “The Revelations of Banned Books” from earlier? I’d read “Dark Waters” last year, I feel, that you’re still, being impacted, by the taboos even now!
Ping Lu: Chiang-Sen, what happened back then with the drama awards, you’d used, “Shivers down the spines” to describe, and, Jiji, in her article, told of why she was, fired, and, she’d quoted Li-Jen Sun’s “I’m innocent”. Recalling that era of weird, let me, translate a line out of the movie, Wonder Woman: “Maybe the word is a mess.”, nothing I can say, back then, the world was, a, total mess…………
Like the forty year anniversary of the China Times, you’d described what happened so very, vividly, I can imagine, what it’d, felt, inside the auditorium, one of the first-prize winners was, booted, and, so, where did the award winning, “Who Murdered So-and-So?” go? Those who knew of the facts, kept their silence, and, the VIPS, including the judges, all traded, secretive glances. Ahhhhh, Chiang-Seng, back then, it was, no big deal, “murdering” a script. Heck, during that era, murdering a man, comes, so easily!
Someone fouled up, brought troubles to the business owners, and, it’s only, normal, that the individual, gets, what’s coming. Isn’t this, what had, happened, to the character of, Ya-Ruo Chang in the scripts of “Who Murdered XXX”?
Looking back, it’s, quite funny actually. All I can say, is that, coincidentally, life, IS like a stage play!
“As the play created by Ping-Lu ‘Who Murdered XXX’ was penned down, perhaps, she already, foresaw, the troubles she will be in, there were, two lines buried, in the press conference scene of the first act:
“Reporter D: ‘We’re all very concerned, is it possible, that this play will be, banned in the future?’
“Director: ‘Didn’t that, era, age of prohibition, pass already?’ (Silenced for a while)”
“Already?”, it’s truly, funny, awkward for people, awkward for the goings on? The question mark at the end, was an imprint of what had, happened to me, as the writer.
Chiang-Seng, you’d told, that the voice of literature becomes, meaningful, in the impacts of taboos, hehe, it’s just, that oftentimes, these impacts, would cause us, to ram, into the walls!”
Actually, I’d, empathized, put myself, in another’s shoes, if I’m in a different scene, how will I be? If I’d, followed the path, of the character in my book, I can’t guarantee, that I won’t, do………….what I deemed, to be, wrong at this very moment! I believe, that, there’s, the weakness in human nature, in facing up to the challenges, the competitions, in becoming lost, with the survivals being, threatened, in that longing for happiness being deprived of, we’re not, as strong, as we suppose ourselves to be. By this way, you and I should be, glad, that compared to our parents’ generation, we’re, more blessed, at least, the era was, much, simpler, we’d not, need to feel, uptight all the time, nor would we, need to, face those choices that were, beyond, our comprehensions.
Chiang-Sen Kuo: Maybe, the whole thing was, more complex, than you or I can, ever imagine, there were, the undisclosed stories, from the wide variety of sects, so, why should the literary world be any different? A volume on the secrets of the First Family, another, on homosexual love, we’d both, written out the tales, and maybe, that was, more important, than, anything else.
Because, the records of the judging processes weren’t, posted, I don’t’ know, who else was on the judges panel other than Mr. Shih-Peng Yang. Director Yang, whom I’d never, met, wrote me abruptly, five years later, back then, he worked as the artistic director of the drama group in Hong Kong, and, wanted to perform “About the Genders”. That was, the very first time, that they’d, performed anything written by a Taiwanese writer.
I was, invited, for the opening, the very first time I’d met Director Yang, he’d told me, that as a judge on the panels, he loved my work back then, and, he’d, broken the rules, put the play up in Mandarin, and Cantonese, and, it’d, broken the traditional rules. The pact that Director Yang made with himself, he’d, kept! For an unknown, still working on his thesis in the U.S., a young man who’s, unrelated to himself, he’d, thrown the money in, hired, the bigshot casts, basing off of today’s trends, should probably, never have happened, right?
I’d thought, that thirty years ago, the world, was much simpler compared to today, we’d still, wanted to speak the truths using literature, to speak up against the authorities, to pursue the freedom of expressing the arts. Or rather, it wasn’t, as falsified compared to current day. How people would, carry their hooks, and power chains, too many politics had, replaced, the purities of the arts, those who were willing to, keep this stage of literature, are, reduced to only, a handful………
AND now, you and I worked as judges, for the literary awards, and maybe, it’s, having been through that part of the past, we’d become, more understanding, more righteous, more persistent, all of these characters, are important, to being a judge. On that same conference table, regardless of how our tastes in literature are unidentical, it’s all, a tug-of-war, symbolically, there’s, no way, for us, to come out on top every single time. Gladly, all the records of the judging are now, publicized, and, all I can do, is, speak my mind. Because I know, that a word of praise, a heartfelt criticism, can change the future of a young writer.
So, this, is having gone through the trials of having one’s works banned, and, compared to before, the world was, much, much more closed-in, and now, everything became, more opened, and, taboos are, no longer, taboos, and yet, we still can’t freely, express our opinions, without, being persecuted, why is that, huh???