Minister, friends mourn death of writer Chen Ying-chen

Writer Chen Ying-chen (陳映真) died in Beijing on Tuesday after a long-time illness, at the age of 79, his wife said. Friends and Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) offered the family their deepest condolences.

Chen, formerly known as Chen Yung-shan (陳永善), was born in 1937 in Taiwan. His major works include such novels as “My Brother Kang-hsiung,” “The Generals,” “The Comedy of Tang Chien” and “Home Coming.”

In 1985, Chen established “Among the People” magazine (人間雜誌), which heralded the development of “reportage literature” in Taiwan by focusing on the life of common people. He also engaged in a heated debate with writer and scholar Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明, no relation) on the differences between Taiwanese and Chinese literature in 2000.

Critic Yao Yi-wei (姚一葦) once praised Chen Ying-chen for “filling his works with messages of human love” and yet, “beneath that human love is a deep melancholy, an eternal sadness that is as heavy as a mountain.”

Yeh Shih-tao (葉石濤), another critic, once described Chen Ying-chen’s writing as “sensitively reflecting a restless time and a tumultuous society, depicting the hardships endured by multitudes of people, particularly intellectuals, in Taiwan over those 40 years.”

Long-time friend, writer Chi Chi (季季), best summarized Chen’s literary achievements by saying that while his early works were more “literary,” those written later in life were more “ideologically colored.”

While his later works leaned toward “Chinese unification,” they also criticized the impact of “American capitalism” on Taiwan, said Chi.

Chen was a conscientious writer always intent on airing the grievances of those politically and economically marginalized and as such his writing was very influential in 1960s Taiwan, she said.

Chen, who majored in English literature, had a good command of both Chinese and English, Chi said, adding that “his words are poetic, matched perfectly to what he strives to write about.”

“I would say his command of Chinese was the best of all contemporary Taiwanese writers,” Chi said.

In 1968, Chen was jailed for 7 years on charges of organizing a group to study leftist ideas and advocating communism – after the authorities were tipped off by Chi’s husband, Yang Wei (楊蔚).

Chi, who was not aware of her husband’s role in Chen’s arrest, divorced him three years later.

After being released from jail in 1975, Chen resumed writing, establishing “Among the People” magazine with the help of Chi Chi. The magazine, which advocated social justice, ceased publication in 1989.

In 2006, Chen moved to Beijing to take up a teaching post at Renmin (People’s) University. In September that year, he suffered two strokes and had been bed-ridden ever since.

Chi Chi and other literary friends, such as Yu Tien-tsung (尉天驄) and Huang Chun-ming (黃春明), used to get together for Chinese festivals and talk about literature and the arts, but never politics out of respect for their very different political outlooks, Chi said.

On Tuesday afternoon, when she heard that Chen had passed away, Chi sat alone in tears for half an hour, recalling the horror so many had suffered during Taiwan’s “white terror” era and the happy times she shared with Chen and his wife traveling in Yunan province, China, she said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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