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  • Date:2023-02-13

Chinese Name: 舞鶴
Birth Name: Chen Kuo-cheng
Date of Birth: October 13, 1951
Place of Birth: Chiayi City (Southern Taiwan)
Did You Know?
The experimental use of language in Wuhe's works, the free writing without apprehension, and the ingenious perspective from which he viewed his native land have all seen him become highly regarded as a writer. Literary critic Wang Der-wei (王德威) once wrote: "Taiwanese literature of the 21st century begins with Wu He." Acclaimed literary master the late Yeh Shih-tao (葉石濤) also once said: "Wu He is a natural writer, familiar with the vicissitudes of Taiwanese history, and with a finger on the pulse of society and politics. Behind his beautiful prose lie nimble and profound inner feelings which are both poetic and realistically depicted."

Chen Kuo-Cheng, better known by his nom de plume Wuhe, was born in Chiayi City in 1951. He graduated from the Department of Chinese Literature at National Cheng Kung University before going on to the Department of Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University and at the Graduate Institute of Creative Writing and English Literature at National Dong Hwa University, however, he earned a degree from neither of the latter. In 1974, during his college years, Wuhe published the short story "The Autumn of Peonies (牡丹秋)," which won the second Flame Tree Literature Award. In 1978, Wuhe started a literary magazine with some schoolmates from college, publishing the short story "A Fine Fragrance (微細的一柱香)." Although they had to cease publishing after just three issues due to problems with funding and distribution, this early effort was nonetheless a clear demonstration of his love for literature. Wuhe completed his compulsory national military service just as the United Daily News and China Times launched their literary prizes. Although he wanted to write new works as soon as possible, he chose to live in seclusion in Danshui Township, Taipei County (now Tamsui District, New Taipei City).

During his 30s, from 1981 to 1991, Wuhe did not publish any works or articles. Although he had wanted to start writing after he finished his service, he encountered unsolved writing problems from his past—that is, issues with his grasp of writing content and his ability to apply the novel language. The difficulties and struggles that he felt when trying to write also ran counter to his thoughts on writing. Writing, to him, should flow naturally as a matter of course. Once one fully understands the subject matter to be written about, it will gradually solidify and take form internally until he finally feels compelled to write. And so it was that he spent ten years practicing writing every morning, reading the famous works of world literature in the afternoon, and then publishing his works. As a result, his writing style was completely transformed.

Wuhe set about starting over again, moving back to Tainan from Danshui and integrating the "freedom of writing" and "charm of the short form" he had experienced during his decade of seclusion into his works. From the results, we can see that the new works produced during this period have an experimental writing style. “The Deserter (逃兵二哥)” and "Investigation: Narration (調查:敘述)" were the product of that decade, and were also his first publications under the nom de plume of Wuhe. They dealt with the totalitarian rule Taiwan experienced during the period of martial law and the White Terror, and expounds upon how the state system can be a protector or persecutor. "The Deserter" went on to win the Wu Zhuo-liu Literature Award in 1992. Subsequent publications “Picking Bones (拾骨)” and "A Love Story Before Dawn (悲傷)" won the Lai Ho Literature Award in 1995, and "Thoughts on A Bang-Kalusi (思索阿邦.卡露斯)" won the Recommended Award in the 1997 China Times Literature Awards.

Wuhe's work "Remains of Life (餘生)," published in 2000, tells the story of the Wushe incident in which the indigenous Seediq resisted the Japanese during the Japanese rule of Taiwan in the 1930s. After Wuhe visited Chuanzhong Island (now the Seediq community of Alang gluban), he was inspired to rethink this history and his experience in the community. Beyond just the distinctive historical backdrop of the novel, the form and structure of "Remains of Life" are very special. The whole book is not segmented into chapters, and the usage of punctuation marks is unique. The book is divided into three parts, all of which are essentially run-on sentences punctuated only with commas, their only periods coming at the end of each part. After its publication in Taiwan, "Remains of Life" won many literary awards. Its first foreign language translation was a French version translated by Esther Lin-Rosolato and Emmanuelle Pechenart which was published in 2011. The English translation, by Michael Berry, was published by Columbia University Press in 2017.

Wuhe's novels are highly experimental, striving for innovation in both form and content. His writing subverts traditional approaches to sentence construction, often reversing the order of sentences or deliberately using typos, while paying attention to forgotten history or marginal figures in theme. In his creation, modernism and native realism go hand in hand, and his rebellious creation makes him a unique figure in the history of Taiwanese literature.