永恆的青春,無限的熱血

──余光中
:::

2010 / 1月

文‧蘇惠昭 圖‧莊坤儒


一生蒼茫還留下什麼呢?
除了把落日留給海峽
除了把燈塔留給風浪
除了把回不了頭的世紀
留給下不了筆的歷史
還留下什麼呢,一生蒼茫?
    ──〈高樓對海〉


還留下什麼呢?

時間回到2008年10月2日,這一天離余光中10月7日(九九重陽節)80歲生日還有5天,台灣藝文界齊聚一堂為詩人暖壽。「壽慶有餘,光耀九州──藝文界詩歌雅集,慶余光中八秩嵩壽」,邀請帖是這樣寫的,具名邀請者是中華民國筆會會長彭鏡禧與台北市文化局局長李永萍。

詩壇祭酒

寫作一甲子筆鋒仍在大唐盛世者幾希?寫作一甲子作品依然笑傲市場者幾希?寫作一甲子,猶仍矗立頂峰,望著退也退不出的文學江湖,年復一年持續被各種「文學活動」綁架至台北至上海至新加坡而身不由己者,幾希?

答案都是余光中。台灣藝文界齊聚為之賀壽,場面可謂空前,恐怕亦將絕後。

余光中「賞」給自己的生日禮為3本新書:詩集《藕神》、評論集《舉杯向天笑》、王爾德劇本翻譯《不要緊的女人》。繼《逍遙遊》、《聽聽那冷雨》之後,《蓮的聯想》、《白玉苦瓜》、《望鄉的牧神》也重排出版。學術界以蘇其康主編祝壽專集《詩歌天保》向詩人致敬。陳芳明主編《余光中跨世紀散文》交由九歌,《余光中60年詩選》交由印刻出版。《印刻文學生活誌》提前開跑,5月號即已推出「煉石補天60年」余光中專號。陳幸蕙繼2002年《悅讀余光中:詩卷》,皓首窮余文6年,以《悅讀余光中:散文卷》作為80壽禮,未來另有遊記文學之卷。

為了這一日,華人文學圈已經放了一整年的煙火。紙本書外,對岸有「余光中與20世紀詩文學國際研討會」,台北有「余光中先生80大壽學術研討會」,高雄中山大學和香港中文大學輪流舉辦余光中手稿暨文物展。

望向90

台北暖過了壽,余光中偕夫人范我存飛往南京。九九重陽這一天,他選擇回到故鄉,那裡有他念過的小學、中學、大學,其中秣陵路小學有一「余光中班」。南京大學則以出版《鄉愁四韻》共襄盛舉。

有華人之處便有人吟誦「給我一瓢長江水啊長江水」;便有人吟誦「小時候,鄉愁是一枚小小的郵票」。那麼一生蒼茫,還留下了什麼呢?一千多首詩是不是足以吸盡海峽之水了?一千篇散文、評論是不是能夠砌起一座燈塔了?更重要的是,在通往90的路上,余光中仍在峰頂上前行,持續創作。

你們以為已經蓋棺論定了,其實我還要寫到90歲。所以今天你們評論的,再過5年就變成明日黃花了。(余光中與陳芳明對談)

日復一日,他駕著車從河堤路住家出發半小時後來到西子灣的研究室,總是先拔掉電話以擋掉過多的干擾。他還欠九歌一本散文集,同時埋首迻譯濟慈詩選,預備2010年出版。

一甲子,他將身軀焚燒給了文學,一身嶙峋瘦骨便是煉石補天的證據。

重九為清秋佳節,含有辟邪避難的象徵。然則茱萸佩囊,菊酒登高,也無非象徵的意思。詩能浩然,自可辟邪,能超然,自可避難。茱萸的孩子說,這便是我的菊酒登高。
──〈九九重九,究竟多久?〉

余光中是「茱萸的孩子」。1999年出版,由傅孟麗執筆的余光中傳,便以此為名。

航向南方之南

1929年重九日,余光中出生於南京,祖籍福建。1937年對日抗戰起,他的就學紀錄無異一頁逃難史,先隨母親逃往上海,輾轉至重慶與父親相聚。勝利後由四川回返南京,分別考上北京大學與金陵大學,捨北大而就金陵後,不凡的文學才情如火山迸發,發表了生平第一首詩〈沙浮投海〉……星星不見了/大海不叫了/星去睡覺了/海也睡著了……,那年他19歲,坐在家中二樓窗口,遠眺紫金山隱隱翠微,詩就這樣從筆尖流出。

「那稚氣的少年絕未想到,起跳的這顆詩心會一直跳到80歲,60年後仍會坐在窗口寫詩,而窗外不再是山,是茫茫的海峽。」80歲前夕他重新騰寫一遍19歲的詩時,這樣驚喟。

接下來國共內戰,余光中又與母親從南京逃到上海,一路往南到廈門,轉學廈大外文系,未幾又隨父母遷居香港,失學一年;1950年落地台灣,以同等學歷考上台大外文系3年級,成為梁實秋的門生。22歲,動盪不安的日子終於轉趨安穩,於香港失落的文思翩翩然回來了。余光中「注定要做南方的詩人」,「要在亞熱帶的風雨裡成長」。

余光中兩度赴美,第一次在1959年,取得愛荷華大學藝術碩士學位;1964年則應美國國務院之請,赴美巡迴講學一年。在台灣,他先後任教於台師大、政大,1974年應聘至香港中文大學,此去11年,香港成了繼台北的20年之後,居住最久的城市。可他千萬個料不到,香港返台,他又航向南方之南,接下高雄中山大學聘書,「讓春天從高雄出發」。

2009,這是他生根高雄的第24年,「台北已漸行漸遠,變得陌生」。余光中聞到了一股南部人的氣味從他的皮膚他的手心滲出,他寫高雄因此比任何人都多。現在他是中山大學講座教授,還為研究生上翻譯課,更是中山大學鎮校之寶。那一間向著台灣海峽背靠柴山的他的研究室,將會永永遠遠保留下來。

他的銀髮以及柴瘦的身影,也將凝成一枚永恆的月光在海上。

貼著生活寫

詩與散文雙軌追求,開創余光中浩瀚的文學版圖。以詩為經,以文為緯,縱橫半世紀以上的藝術生產,斐然可觀;那已不是屬於一位作者的畢生成就,也應屬於台灣文壇創造力的重要指標。他筆下揮灑成形的恢宏氣象,既是個人豐饒生命的投影,也是當代歷史魂魄的縮影。從舊世紀到新世紀,從揚眉少年到慈眉老年,由於他同時經營兩種文體,任何一個時期都從未出現歉收的跡象。詩風與文風的多變、多產、多樣,盱衡同輩晚輩,幾乎少有匹敵者。
陳芳明〈左手掌紋,壯麗敞開〉
──《余光中跨世紀散文》前言

文學創作是如何開始的?德國文豪歌德說過意思大約是這樣的話:他所有的詩皆即事即景,遇有什麼可寫的就寫,諸如朋友的告別式、失敗的戀愛,並非有什麼觸動了內心深處,並非為了要去挖掘深沉的希望,完成博大的哲學體系,一切都是從生活中來。歌德說這話,余光中認為他約莫是和人辯論時故意說的,「不過我大體也是如此,創作來自生活,生活起了一點什麼變化就把它寫下來……」

「貼著生活寫」,如此尋常的寫作動機,如何寫出宛如奇峰異嶂層疊的散文?如何營造詩藝至「爐火純青,止於至善」?

本事與天才

余光中自己有幾個說法。首先,他定位自己,三分之一是學者,三分之二是作家。作家的他讀書隨興之所至,不成系統;學者的他則不然,比如講授文學通史,歡喜與不歡喜的都必須讀而研之。

其二,他這一代的人,因為大量閱讀舊小說而打下了中文根底,「舊小說雖文白夾雜,可卻簡練,像《儒林外史》,很長一段章節不用一個『的』字,照樣可敘事可抒情。」從舊小說出發,中文為體,吸收西方文化,這奠定了余光中寫作的基礎。

其三,關於寫作的態度。

作家在追尋、發展自我的過程中,他一路結交古今中外朋友,有些朋友後來甚至變成了「家人」,影響思維,佔據靈魂一方,王爾德(Oscar Wilde,19世紀英國作家)、梵谷、披頭四,都是余光中所謂的「我的家人」。

依據「家人」王爾德的說法,他過日子用talent,寫作用genius。余光中對生活與寫作的態度大抵也是如此,憑本事過日子,寫作則要動用天才,「總不能過日子也很戲劇化,這樣人生太累了!」所以他生活平淡,穿著如公務員,資料裝在一卡舊兮兮的007手提箱裡,連飲食亦十分寡淡無有變化。

都說文如其人,偏偏這不一定對。

「寫文章有時候是補償,文不如其人,而是如『想成為』的那個人,」余光中解釋。初識余光中者都認為他很儒家,端正嚴肅,不茍言笑,這樣的性格寫起文章來卻是奔放熱情,氣勢恢宏,時而挾帶驚人的幽默,這當然是「動用天才」的結果了。

雄厚如斧野曠如碑

其四,關於寫作的技藝。

「張曉風之難得,在於她是台灣極少數不受張愛玲影響的作家,」余光中忽然這麼天外飛來一筆,祭起一陣迷霧,然後他手一揚指出方向,「而我是絕不受張愛玲影響的!」

余光中分析過,一個張愛玲一個錢鍾書,都因為夏志清欽點而經典化,「夏的慧眼識英雄,在於他不相信左派那一套,也不信現代主義那一套。」1930年代的錢鍾書斯人已遠,1960年代的張愛玲便成為台灣當代作家取法的對象,前仆後繼踏進了「張愛玲學校」。

余光中欣賞張愛玲,卻一天也不肯進「張愛玲學校」,他無意取法當代,而他走上陽剛一路,關乎性格,其實也是在尋找屬於自己的風格,所以吸收足夠了梁實秋、錢鍾書後,又越過張愛玲往回看,對五四諸家淡而無味的文字則敬謝不敏,於是又回去得更遙遠了,終於「回到了唐宋八大家,回到孟子史記,回到整個民族。」

「我投入散文是為了一枝男得充血的筆,一種雄厚如斧野獷如碑的風格,」余光中解釋,當年他說這話是針對五四,「我實在不滿意五四早期,朱自清、冰心那種斜風細雨的,又像淡茶又似橄欖的文字,無滋無味像素描像水彩畫,為什麼就不能陽剛,不能氣象萬千呢?」

恆久的青春熱血

於是他留下了幾段研究「余體」者必背之誦之的藝術宣言:

一為:「我所期待的散文,應該有聲,有色,有光;應該有木蕭的甜味,釜形大鐘鼓的騷響,有旋轉自如像虹一樣的光譜,而明滅閃爍於字裡行間的,應該有一種奇幻的光。」(《左手的繆思》)

一為:「我真的想在中國文字的風火爐中,煉出一顆丹來。我嘗試把中國的文字壓縮、槌扁、拉長、磨利。把它拆開又併攏,折來且疊去,為了試驗它的速度、密度和彈性。」(《蓮的聯想》)

王鼎均在2009年出版的回憶錄《文學江湖》記了余光中一筆,很重要的一筆。他說:「他(余光中)的語言,把歐化(翻譯)、古化(文言)、土方(方言)三者鎔鑄為新的合金,句法伸縮疏密間貫以奔騰的文氣,前所未見,講意象講節奏,也似乎開來多於繼往。」

余光中用右手寫詩,左手寫散文,對讀者來說,無論詩或散文,他代表的則是恆久的青春,無限的熱血,年輕時如果沒有一點余光中,生命便失了血色和活力。

變遷的居所,多重的忠誠

一片大陸,算不算你的國?
一個島,算不算你的家?
一眨眼,算不算少年?
一輩子,算不算永遠?
──〈江湖上〉

我是誰?余光中一直在問。

一直在問,因為他不斷的在遷移,不斷的被分類,地理上和精神上的。陳芳明編選《余光中60年詩選》,直接以「台北時期」、「香港時期」、「高雄時期」斷代劃界,地理環境對余光中創作的鮮明影響斑斑可考,他承認「每換一個居住地,面對新的地理環境,對作家的創作都是考驗和挑戰,但那也是創作的籌碼。」

以到高雄為例,頭先兩個月心生茫然,之後就逐漸定下來,生活也投入了,這就有了靈感和題材。不管喜歡或不喜歡,余光中認為,當作家能夠坐下來寫這個地方,就表示到位了,就位了,表示正在與這塊土地交流,「某種意義來講,這個地方就是你的了!」

普羅旺斯是梵谷的,上海是張愛玲的,三峽是杜甫的,海南島是蘇東坡的,余光中呢?南京曾經是他的,台北曾經是他的,還有美國和香港,如今呢,余光中說,高雄是他的,他掌管著旗津的燈塔和台灣海峽。

「大陸是母親,台灣是妻子,歐洲是情婦。」他既多變又忠貞的愛情裡卻沒有美國,「美國是棄婦,」他說,是他曾經愛過已經不愛不想回頭看望一眼的棄婦,而台灣是妻子,「台北是前妻,高雄是第二任妻子。」

變遷的居所,多重的忠誠,複雜的思慮,在在造成余光中的身份認同危機。「我」總是曖曖昧昧、朦朦朧朧,是誰又不是誰,是誰又是誰。詩人說他是學院派,學院派說他不是學院派;傳統說他現代,現代說他傳統。他寫高雄,自認是高雄人,高雄卻說他是台北人。台灣人說他是中國人。中國人說他是鄉愁詩人。

「一個人如果從意識型態出發,只放大我的一面,完全故意忽略我的另一面,我就會被歸類為什麼,」余光中說。

自我探索之旅

他注定必須和基本教義派交手,與各種顏色混和,「大概身份很清楚的人多半是基本教義派,基本教義派是快樂的,簡單的,他們不必自我探索。」

他的生命卻是一場漫長艱難的自我探索之旅,途中也無可避免的遇到政治。生生不息的問號洶洶湧湧拍打,「這反而是對創作的刺激」。

余光中與陳芳明,這兩個名字連在一起之所以成為話題,乃是他們開始於一段關係匪淺的師生情緣,接之而來的是巨大的斷裂,整整15年,赴美留學的陳芳明名列國民黨黑名單,被切斷了回台灣的路。

文學也許可以不介入政治,但政治必然介入並扭曲文學。1977年,余光中以一篇〈狼來了〉點燃台灣鄉土文學論戰,漫天挾帶著意識型態的鋒火中,他被戴上「反鄉土」、「反本土」帽子,套用現在的話,就是「不愛台灣」、「賣台」。比之這一路走來他參與的「現代詩論戰」、「文白之爭」、「天狼星論戰」、「抽象畫論戰」,這一戰讓余光中腹背受敵,儘管他從未把鄉土文學和被毛澤東謳歌的「工農兵文學」畫上等號。

當時陳芳明選擇了站在鄉土文學的隊伍,20年後師生重逢,「我知道我再也回不去那年與詩人一起捧讀詩稿的時光。政治、黨派、意識型態、國家認同,在詩人與我之間的情誼中,撒播了過多的雜質。」重逢是苦澀的,但「文學必須回到藝術的紀律,回到審美的位置,」當一切雜質隨著時間沉澱,陳芳明終於確定:「如果有人問起我的師承,我的答案不再遲疑。在文學的追逐中,我確信,余光中是我的現代,也是我的古典。」

不只陳芳明,對台灣第二代、第三代詩人來說,余光中亦是以父親與典範的形象存在,是啟蒙者。

而那一場鄉土文學論戰,余光中後來是這麼說的:「當時也有人勸我再為文澄清,可是我覺得會是徒然。真理未必愈辯愈明。論戰事件,是方便粗糙的文學史家貼標籤,分楚漢。但是哪一個真有分量的作家是靠論戰,甚至混戰來傳後的呢?」

只有文學,只屬於文學

終於他知道自己是誰了,他不會再和自己吵架,但別人找上門的那不算,公開批評教育部「刪減文言文政策」這事無關個人。

四十歲時他還不斷地仰問/問森羅的星空,自己是誰/為何還在下面受罪/難道高高在上的神明/真的有一尊,跟他作對?/而今六十都過了,他不再/為憂懼而煩惱,他的額頭/和星宿早已停止了爭吵/夜晚變得安靜而溫柔/如一座邊城在休戰之後/當少年的同伴都吹散在天涯/有誰呢,除了桌燈,還照著他/像一切故事說到了盡頭……
──〈後半夜〉

他只屬於文學。湖南常德沅江2.5公里長的河堤,一路刻詩,從屈原開始,也有洛夫、鄭愁予,余光中當然不可能缺席。

那一條屬於中華民族的詩的長廊裡,他實現了少年時對中國的承諾:「中國將以他的名字為榮」。中國大陸評選「當代散文8大家」,他與冰心、季羨林、金克木、張中行、汪曾祺、余秋雨並列。九歌出版社創辦人蔡文甫至今堅信余光中一定能得諾貝爾文學獎,但,「一個作家能被自己民族所接受,就是最大的光榮」──余光中卻是這麼說的。

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日本語 EN

永遠の青春、無限の熱き血――余光中

文・蘇惠昭 写真・荘坤儒

一生の蒼茫に何を残したのか
落日を海峡に残し
燈台を波浪に残し
振返ることのない世紀を残し
筆にならない歴史を残し
それから何を残したのか、一生の蒼茫
    〈高楼に海に向う〉


何を残したのか。

時は2008年10月2日に戻る。この日は余光中80歳の誕生日の10月7日(旧暦9月9日の重陽節)まで残すところ5日、台湾の文壇が一堂に会してこの詩人の長寿を祝った。「長寿に余慶あり、光九州に耀く‐文壇の詩歌雅集、余光中の八十長寿を祝う」と書かれた招待状は、中華民国ペンクラブの彭鏡禧会長と台北市文化局の李永萍局長の連名だった。

詩壇の祭酒

60年を詩に捧げた詩人は、大唐の盛時でさえ見出せたのであろうか。60年の作品がなおベストセラーの作家は何人数えるだろう。60年の著作がなお文壇に屹立し、引退も果せないまま、文学活動に絡め取られて、台北から上海、そしてシンガポールまで往復するのはどんな作家なのだろう。

その答えは余光中である。台湾文壇を挙げて長寿を寿ぐという盛会も、空前絶後であろう。

余光中は自分の誕生日を新刊3冊で祝った。詩集『藕神』、評論集『挙杯向天笑』とオスカー・ワイルドの戯曲『つまらぬ女』の翻訳である。さらに『逍遥遊』『聴聴那冷雨』に続いて『蓮的連想』『白玉苦瓜』『望郷的牧神』などの再版が続いた。学界では蘇其康の編集で『余光中』のアンソロジー『詩歌天保』が詩人に捧げられ、陳芳明編集の随筆集『余光中跨世紀散文』が九歌から、『余光中60年詩選』が印刻から出版された。印刻文学生活誌は早くも5月号で余光中を特集した。陳幸恵は2002年に出した『悦読余光中、詩巻』に続いて、6年をかけて『悦読余光中、散文巻』を出版し、80歳を祝った。今後は遊記文学が続く予定である。

この日のために、華人文壇は1年を通じてイベントが続いた。出版以外にも、中国では余光中と20世紀詩文学の国際セミナーが開催され、台北では余光中先生80歳記念学術シンポジウムが、高雄の中山大学と香港の中文大学ではそれぞれ余光中の自筆原稿と文物展が開催された。

90歳に向けて

台北でのイベントが終ると、余光中は夫人范我存と共に南京に飛んだ。重陽節の日を故郷で過ごすことにしたのである。かつて学んだ小学校、中学校、大学がそこにあり、秣陵路の小学校では余光中クラス会が開かれ、南京大学では『郷愁四韻』を出版してこの日を祝った。

華人がいる処なら、いつも誰かが「一瓢の長江水を私に、あの長江水を」と吟唱し、「幼き頃、郷愁は1枚の切手」と詠むことだろう。この一生の蒼茫に何を残してきたのだろう。千首に上る詩は、海峡の水を吸い尽くせるのだろうか。千篇の随筆や評論は灯台を積み上げられるのだろうか。さらに90歳への道のりを、余光中はさらに頂上に向って歩んでいくのだろうか。

「私の作品はすでに棺を蓋うて論定まると思われるでしょうが、90歳まで書くつもりで、今日の評論も5年後には萎れていることでしょう」(余光中と陳芳明の対談より)

毎日毎日、自宅から車を走らせ30分の西子湾の研究室に出かけ、電話線を切って余計な邪魔が入らないようにする。九歌出版に随筆集1冊を約束しており、またアンソロジーを2010年に出版する予定である。

60年を文学に身を焦がしてきた証を、その一身の痩骨が語っている。

「重陽は爽秋の節句で、魔除け厄除けの象徴である。そうであれば茱萸をかざし、菊酒に高きに登るも象徴である。詩は浩然と邪を避け超然、これも難を避けるものである。茱萸の子供とは、つまり私の菊酒登高である」(九九重九より)

余光中は茱萸の子供である。1999年に出版された孟麗の余光中伝は、これより名づけられた。

南方の南への船出

1929年の重陽節に余光中は南京に生まれた。祖籍は福建である。1937年に抗日戦争が始まると、その就学記録は疎開の記録でもある。母と共に上海に逃れ、それから転々と重慶に移って父と再会した。抗日戦争の勝利後は四川から南京に戻り、北京大学と金陵大学に合格したが、南京の金陵大学を選んだ。そこから文学の才能が迸り、最初に発表した詩が「沙浮投海」で、「星は見えず、海は叫ばず、星は眠り、海も眠る」であった。その年19歳の彼は、家の二階の窓から遠く紫金山を望んで、この詩が生まれたという。

「あどけなさの残る少年に生まれた詩の心が、まさか80歳になっても窓辺で詩を書くとは思いませんでした。今望むのは山ではなく茫漠と広がる海峡です」と、80歳になる前夜、19歳の詩を書き写しながらこう語る。

国共内戦が勃発し、余光中は母と再び上海に逃れ、さらに南に厦門に出て厦門大学中文科に転学するがそれも束の間、両親と共に香港に難を避け1年を過ごす。1950年には台湾に移って、台湾大学外国文学科3年に転入し、梁実秋の門下生となった。22歳である。不安な日々がようやく安定し、香港で失った文学への思いが再び戻ってきた。余光中は南方の詩人となる運命、亜熱帯の風雨の人となったのである。

余光中は前後二回アメリカに渡っている。最初は1959年、エドワード大学芸術学修士の学位を受けた。二回目は1964年、アメリカ国務院の招きで各地で講演と授業を行った。台湾では相前後して台湾師範大学、政治大学で教鞭をとり、1974年に香港中文大学に招かれ11年を過ごす。台北の20年のあとを受け、長期にわたって暮らした町であったが、香港から台湾に戻ると、思いがけずもさらに南方に向うことになった。高雄の中山大学に招かれたのである。

2009年は高雄に根を下ろしてから24年目となり、台北はすでに遠く、見知らぬ町になってしまった。余光中が嗅ぎ取った南部人の気質は、その皮膚や手のひらから染み透り、高雄を筆に乗せることも多くなった。現在、中山大学に講座を持ち、大学院生には翻訳を教え、大学の看板教授でもある。台湾海峡に面して柴山を背にした研究室は、永遠に余光中のために空けてある。

銀髪に痩せた姿が、永遠の月光のように海面を照らしている。

生活に即した著作を

「詩と随筆の二つを軸に、余光中はその文学の領土を開いていった。詩を縦糸に文を横糸に、半世紀以上にわたる芸術の成果は、すでに一作家の畢生の到達にとどまらず、台湾文壇の創造力を示す重要な指標でもある。その筆が生み出した広々とした世界は、豊かな人生の投影であると共に、現代史の魂の縮図でもある。旧世紀から新世紀へ、涼やかな眉の少年から白眉の老年まで、この二つの文体を操りながら、どの時期においても豊かな実りを約束してきた。詩風と文体は多産に多様な変化を見せ、世代を超えてこれに匹敵するものはほとんどない」(陳芳明「左手の掌紋を壮麗に開く」『余光中の世紀を跨ぐ散文』序言より)

文学創作はいつから始まったのだろうか。ドイツの文豪ゲーテは、かつてこう話している。彼の詩はすべて実事実景で、折に触れて書き綴ったものである。知人の告別式、恋愛の失敗であり、決して心の奥底に触れたとか、深い希望を掘り下げるとか、壮大な哲学大系を築くとかではなく、すべて生活から生まれたものである。余光中は、ゲーテの話を論争のときに敢えて反語で言ったものとは考えず「私も大体そんなもので、創作は生活から来ます。生活にちょっと変化があると書き留めるのです」と言う。

生活に即して描くと言うのが著作の動機というなら、その峨々たる奇峰が連なるような散文、純化した炎のような詩芸はどう鍛えられるのであろうか。

天才と才能

余光中にも自分なりの言い方がある。まず自分を学者三分の一、作家三分の二と言う。作家の自分は興に任せて書を読み、系統だっていないが、学者の自分はそうは行かない。文学通史の講義には、好き嫌いを問わず読まなければならない。

次いで、自分の世代の人間は旧小説を多読濫読して文体の基礎を築いた。「旧小説は文語と口語が混じりますが、練られた簡潔な文体で、儒林外史のように長い一段落に的の字を用いず、叙情的に叙事的に描写できます」と言うとおり、旧小説から出発し中文を骨格に西洋文化を吸収して、余光中の文体が作られた。

三番目が、著作の態度である。

作家が自己を求め成長する中で、古今東西に知己を求め、その知己が家人になり、思索に影響し精神の一隅を占める。たとえばワイルド、ゴッホ、ビートルズは、すべて余光中のいう家人なのである。

家人のワイルドに言わせると、人生には才能、著作には天才を用いるのだと言う。余光中の人生と著作もそうで、才能に頼って毎日を送り、著作には天賦の才を用いる。「毎日の生活がドラマチックなのは、人生として疲れるでしょう」と言うとおり、日々の暮らしは平穏で、公務員のような身なりに薄汚れたブリーフケースに資料を詰めて出かけ、毎日の飲食も変化はない。

文は人なりと言われるが、それも正しいとは言えない。

「物書きは時に足りないものを補う作業で、文は人なりと言うより、なりたい人なりなのです」と余光中は言う。彼を知る人は儒者らしく、厳格で真面目で冗談も余り言わない人柄と思うが、こういった性格から生まれる文章は情熱的で奔放、気宇壮大で、しかも驚くようなユーモアが混じっているのは、天才のなせる業である。

荒野を切り開く雄渾な文体

四番目は著作の技術である。

「張暁風は台湾では珍しく、張愛玲の影響を受けていない作家です」と、思いがけない方向から一言断を下して人を迷わせながら「私も張愛玲の影響は受けません」と締めくくる。

その分析によると、張愛玲と銭鍾書はそれぞれ夏志欽の評価を受けて古典となったのであり「夏志欽は高い評価眼を持っていて、左派にも染まらず、モダニズムも信じていませんでした」と説明する。しかし1930年代の銭鍾書はすでに遠くなり、1960年代の張愛玲が台湾現代作家の手本となって、張愛玲スクールが隆盛を誇った。

余光中も張愛玲を評価するが、張愛玲スクールに足を踏み入れることはなく、現代風を標榜する気もなく、ただ自分のスタイルを追い求めていたのである。そこで梁実秋や銭鍾書から学び、張愛玲を飛び越えて過去に先例を求めながら、五四運動時代の退屈な文学は敬して遠ざけ、さらに遠い過去を遡っていった。そしてついに「唐宋八大家に遡り、さらには史記孟子、民族全体に戻っていったのです」と語る。

「私が打ち込んだ文学は、男子の血気に溢れ雄渾に荒野を切り開き碑を立てる文体です」とかつて語った意味は、五四運動の文学に対するもので「五四運動当時の朱自清や冰心など細く吹きつける時雨のような文体には不満で、味も素っ気も無い水彩画ではなく、もっと気概をもって壮大に描けないのかと思いました」と説明する。

永遠の青春の熱血

そこで余光中の文体を愛する者誰もが諳んじている文芸術宣言を残した。

一つは「私が期待する文学は声あり、色あり、光あるもの、

一つは「中国文学の風火の炉の中から仙薬を練り上げたいと思います。

居所転々、忠誠の多義

一片の大陸はお前の国なのか
一つの島はお前の家なのか
一瞬きの少年のとき
一生は永遠なのか
    「江湖上」より

自分は何者かを余光中は問い続けた。

問い続ける中で転々とし、地理的にも精神的にも分類され続けてきた。陳芳明編になる『余光中60年詩選』は、直接「台北期」「香港期」「高雄期」と時代で区切り、地理環境が余光中の著作に与えた影響を考証した。自身も居所を移るたびに新しい地理環境に向き合い、作家としての創作に試練となったが、それが創作の転機となったことを認めている。

高雄に移った当初2ヶ月は、気持ちの上でも茫然としていたが、生活が次第に落ち着いてくると、そこから題材が生まれてきた。好き嫌いを問わず、作家はその土地に居場所を見出せば、土地と心が通い、それがある意味で自分の場所になったということだと言う。

プロバンスはゴッホのものだし、上海は張愛玲の都市、三峡は杜甫の場となり、蘇軾は海南島である。それでは余光中にとってはどうだろう。かつては南京、そして台北、さらにはアメリカと香港があり、今となっては高雄であり、旗津の灯台と台湾海峡である。

「大陸は母親で台湾は妻、ヨーロッパは愛人」言いつつ、その過ごした場の中にアメリカはないと言う。かつては心を傾けたが、今は振り向くこともない棄てた相手で、台湾こそ妻なのである。しかも台北は前妻、高雄は後妻である。

居所を転々とし、それぞれに忠誠を抱きながらも複雑な思いが重なり、余光中の中で自己認識の危機を形成した。自己はいつでも曖昧模糊としていて、自分は誰なのかを問い続けなければならなかった。詩人は彼をアカデミックと言うし、とはいえ学界に属するものでもなく、古典派からはモダニストと言われ、現代派からは古典的といわれる。高雄を語って高雄人を自認しても、高雄からは台北人といわれる。台湾人は彼を中国人というが、中国人は郷愁詩人として扱う。

「イデオロギーから出発すると、私の一面だけを見て別の面を無視してしまい、何かに分類されるのです」と余光中は言う。

自己探索の旅

そこで教条主義者を相手にしつつ、各種の色に染まり「分類分けがはっきりしている人は教条主義者なのでしょう。面倒な自己探索をしなくてすむのでそのほうが楽なのです」と思う。

しかし、余光中の人生は長い自己探索の旅で、しかも幾たびか政治に突き当たった。そこから疑問符が次々に沸き起こり、それが創作の刺激ともなる。

余光中と陳芳明の二人の名前が、しばしば一緒に取り扱われて話題となったが、それも最初は師弟の縁から始まり、その後大きな溝で切り裂かれたからである。15年の間、国民党のブラックリストに載った陳芳明はアメリカ留学から滞在を余儀なくされ、台湾に戻れなかった。

文学が政治に介入することはなくとも、政治は文学に介入し歪曲してくる。1977年、余光中は「狼が来た」の一文で台湾郷土文学論戦を引き起こし、イデオロギーの波の中で反郷土のレッテルを貼られた。今風に言えば「台湾を愛さず、台湾を売る」売国奴である。それまでにも現代詩論戦や文語と口語の争い、天狼星論争、抽象画論争などの論戦を繰り返してきたが、今回の論戦は腹背に敵を迎える戦いとなった。

当時、陳芳明は郷土文学陣営の論客となり、20年振りに再会した師弟は「師の詩人とかつての詩稿を読みあう日々には戻れませんでした。政治や党派、イデオロギー、国家認識など、詩人と私の間に様々な雑多なものがありすぎました」と、苦い再会を陳芳明は振り返る。しかし、文学が芸術の規律に従い、美学としての位置に戻ると、雑多なものが時の流れに沈殿し、陳芳明はついに「師は誰かと問われれば迷うことはもうありません。文学追求にあって、余光中が私の古典であり現代なのです」と陳芳明は確信する。

陳芳明に止まらない。台湾の第二世代、第三世代の詩人にとって、余光中は父であり古典とする存在であり、また蒙を啓く師である。

郷土文学論戦の後、余光中は「その当時、釈明の文章を発表したらと言う人もいましたが、無駄だろうと思いました。真理は釈明して明らかになるとは限りません。あの論争は、文学史家が大雑把に敵味方のレッテルを貼っただけのことです。本当に力のある作家が論争や、混戦で歴史に伝えられるものでしょうか」と語る。

文学だけが、文学こそが

ついに自分を探し当てた彼は、自問自答を繰り返すことはなくなったが、売られた喧嘩は買うしかない。自分個人の問題ではないと、教育部の文語削減政策を公開で批判した。

「40歳の時、彼は天に問いかけた。お前は何者か、深い星空よ。地上に罰を下すのは、高みにいます神明か。いずれの神明が仇をなすのか。60歳を過ぎた今、憂慮も煩悩も通り過ぎ、星宿との争いも終った。夜は安らかに過ぎ、休戦を迎えた辺境の町のように、昔の仲間も散り散りとなった今では、傍らのともし火が彼を照らすだけで、すべての物語は終局を迎える」(後半夜)

文学こそ彼である。湖南省常徳の沅;江べりに2.5キロ続く堤には、屈原から始まり洛夫、鄭愁予などの詩碑が続く。余光中もその一人である。

中華民族の詩の回廊において、余光中は若い頃に中国に誓った「中国は自分の名を誇りとするだろう」という願いを実現させた。中国は現代散文八大家を選出し、冰心、李羨林、金克木、張中行、汪曾祺、余秋雨と共に、余光中もその名を連ねた。九歌出版社創設者の蔡文甫は、余光中のノーベル文学賞受賞の可能性を信じている。しかし余光中自身は「作家が自分の民族に受け入れられれば、それが一人の作家としての最大の栄誉」と言うばかりである。

Eternal Youth, Unbounded Passion--Yu Kwang-chung

Su Hui-chao /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

"What do the hazy contours of a life leave behind? / Apart from sunsets left to the Strait / Apart from a lighthouse left for the wind and waves / Apart from a century that can't be returned to / Left to a history that can't be written / What remains? / The hazy contours of a life
--"A High Window Overlooking the Sea"


What remains?

Turn back the clock to October 2, 2008-five days before Yu Kwang-chung's 80th birthday on October 7, which was also the Double Nine Festival by the Chinese lunar calendar. Members of Taiwan's cultural and literary community gathered to mark the occasion. "When celebrating an important birthday, glory shines throughout the land," reads the invitation. "A Poetic Gathering-Celebrating the 80th Birthday of Yu Kwang-chung." Lee Yong-ping, director of the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Perng Ching-hsi, president of the Taipei Chinese Center, International PEN, had sent out the cards.

Leading poet

Among those who have been writing for 60 years, who is still in his prime? Among those writing for 60 years, who still finds an eager market for his work? Among those who have been writing for 60 years, who still stands tall amid the literary landscape and is "kidnapped" time and again to attend literary gatherings, whether in Taipei, Shanghai or Singapore?

The answer to each of the above questions is Yu Kwang-chung. The gathering of Taiwan's literary and artistic community for his birthday celebration was unprecedented and may never be seen again.

Yu's birthday present to himself was the publication of three new works: the poetry collection Goddess of Lotus Root, a collection of essays A Smiling Toast to Heaven, and a translation of Oscar Wilde's play A Woman of No Importance. New editions came out for several of his earlier works: The Untrammeled Traveler, Listen to the Cold Rain, Associations of the Lotus, The White Jade Bitter Gourd, and Look Homeward, Satyr. The academic community paid its respects via Poetry of Divine Blessings: Festschrift in Honor of the Eightieth Birthday of Professor Yu Kwang-chung, edited by Francis K. H. So. Then there were collections of Yu's best poetry and essays edited by Chen Fang-ming, as well as several other books on Yu and special editions of periodicals devoted to him.

The Chinese literary community spent a year in preparation for that day. Apart from the aforementioned publications, an international symposium on Yu's impact on 20th-century poetry was also held on the mainland, and an academic conference was held in Taipei. Meanwhile, National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung and the Chinese University of Hong Kong put on exhibitions of Yu's handwritten manuscripts and other related artifacts.

Looking toward 90

After celebrating his birthday early in Taipei, Yu and his wife Fan Wo-tsun flew to Nanjing for the Double Nine Festival. It was a homecoming for Yu, since he attended elementary school, high school and university there. There is an "Yu Kwang-chung" class at his old elementary school, and Nanjing University published Nostalgia in Four Rhymes.

In Chinese communities around the world people are familiar with lines from his poems: "Give me a ladle of Yangtze River water, ah, Yangtze River water." Or "When I was young, nostalgia was a tiny, tiny stamp." In which case, what does remain from the hazy contours of a life? Are 1000-some poems enough to soak up the water of the Taiwan Strait? Are 1000 essays and works of literary criticism enough to construct a lighthouse? Most importantly, Yu, as he heads toward the milestone of 90, is still pressing forward at top form and continues to create.

You all seem to think you've nailed the lid on my coffin and can pass final judgment on my accomplishments. In fact, I want to write until I'm 90. Consequently, the assessments you are making today will be out of date in five years. --Yu, in an interview with Chen Fang-ming

Every day he drives half an hour from his home on Kaohsiung's Heti Road to his office on Xizi Bay. First he always disconnects his phone to avoid disturbances. He still owes Chiu Ko Publishing a book of essays, and he is translating a collection of Keats' poetry that is scheduled to be published in 2010.

For 60 years, he threw himself, body and soul, into literature. His bony frame bears witness to the toll that his accomplishments have taken on his body.

Double Nine is an autumn festival and holds symbolism for warding off evil and natural disasters. That being the case, placing a dogwood branch in a satchel, drinking of chrysanthemum wine and climbing mountains also have symbolic value. Poetry has vast powers too: it can ward off evil, provide a path to transcendence and prevent disasters. The Child of Dogwood says, this is my chrysanthemum wine and this is how I climb a mountain. -"How Long Is Double Nine?"

Yu is the "Child of Dogwood." Fu Mengli chose that as the title of her biography of Yu, which was published in 1999.

Heading south of south

On the Double Nine Festival in 1929, Yu was born in Nanjing to a family that hailed from Fujian. In 1937, when war broke out between China and Japan, he began his life as a refugee. First he fled with his mother to Shanghai and then he moved to Chongqing to live with his father. After Japan was defeated, he returned to Nanjing via Sichuan. He was accepted to both Peking University and the University of Nanking. After enrolling at Nanking, his uncommon literary talent burst forth like a volcano in his first poem, "Sand Thrown to Float in the Sea": "The stars have disappeared / The sea no longer roars / The stars have fallen asleep. The sea too has fallen asleep." He was then 19, sitting by his second-floor window and gazing toward the soft blue-green of Mt. Zijin in the distance, and the poem flowed from the tip of his pen.

"The callow youth that wrote that poem could never have imagined that 60 years later, when he was 80, he would be still be sitting at a window writing poems-but, instead of mountains, he'd be gazing upon the water of the Taiwan Strait." Yu thus exclaimed on the eve of his 80th birthday as he wrote out that poem that he had written when he was just 19.

In the years that followed, as civil war engulfed the nation, Yu and his mother fled Nanjing for Shanghai, and then continued south to Xiamen, where he transferred to the department of foreign languages at Amoy University. It wasn't long before he moved again, leaving for Hong Kong with his parents and missing school for a year. In 1950 he came to Taiwan and passed an equivalency exam to enter National Taiwan University's Department of Foreign Languages and Literature as a junior. There he became a disciple of Liang Shih-chiu. When he was 22, those restless days of uncertainty had finally come to a peaceful close, and the literary stirrings that he had lost in Hong Kong because of his year away from school came once again to the fore. Yu was "destined to live as a southern poet"-"to develop amid the wet gusts of the subtropics."

Twice Yu went to America. The first time was in 1959 to get a master's in fine arts at the University of Iowa. Then in 1964, he earned a yearlong Fulbright scholarship from the US Department of State, which he spent touring the United States and giving lectures. In Taiwan, he taught successively at National Taiwan Normal University and National Chengchi University. Then in 1974, he accepted a post at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He remained there for 11 years, and Hong Kong became the city he had lived longest in apart from Taipei. He had never expected that when he returned to Taiwan, he would go south of south and find a job at Kaohsiung's National Sun Yat-sen University, to "Let Spring Start from Kaohsiung."

Now in 2009, after living in Kaohsiung for 24 years: "Taipei has gradually grown distant and strange for me." Yu smells a southerner's scent emanating from his palms, and he has written more about Kaohsiung than anyone. Currently a "chair professor" at National Sun Yat-sen University, he teaches a translation class for graduate students and is one of the university's great treasures. The study he has facing the Taiwan Strait with its back to Mt. Chai will be preserved forever.

And his silver hair and bony frame will forever be visible in the silver medallion of the moon's reflection on sea.

Sticking close to life

The geography of Yu Kuang-chung's literary world is charted via the longitude of poetry and the latitude of essays. His artistic output, created over more than half a century, is extraordinarily rich and substantial. More than merely the astonishing lifetime accomplishments of an individual writer, it has become an important indicator of literary creation in Taiwan. The expansive atmosphere conjured by his pen is a projection of his rich and fertile life, and it also captures the essence of the age. From last century to this century, from his youth to his compassionate old age, he has never experienced a period when his work in at least one of those two genres isn't bearing ample fruit. With regard to the tremendous variety and output of his poetry and essays, he has few rivals-whether among his contemporaries or followers. --Chen Fang-ming, from "Lines of the Left Palm Magnificently Unfolded," the foreword to The Best of 60 Years of Yu Kwang-chung's Essays.

What is the source of literary creation? Yu cites Goethe, who said that all of his poems were rooted in what he saw and experienced. He said he would write about whatever he encountered-for instance, attending the funeral of a friend or being spurned in love. There was no need for these matters to touch his deepest inner desires or to complete some vast philosophical structure; they were simply what he experienced in life. Yu believes that Goethe likely made those comments as a result of getting into a debate with someone. "Nevertheless, that's basically the way it is for me. Creativity comes from life. I write down observations about the vicissitudes of my life...."

But how is it possible to write essays that are so magnificent in their many layers of complexity by "staying close to life" when seeking literary inspiration? How is it possible to create poetry of such refinement and perfection?

Talent and genius

Yu has several ways of answering these questions himself. First of all, he defines himself as being one-third scholar and two-thirds writer. The writer part of him reads books willy-nilly as he happens upon them, but the scholar in him adopts an entirely different approach. Take literary history, for instance. He has studied it all, whether he is enamored of the period or not.

Secondly, in their youth people of his generation read many classical Chinese novels and built their foundations in Chinese literature from them. "Although ancient Chinese novels are difficult mixtures of classical literary and vernacular language, novels like The Scholars can be very telegraphic in their use of language, dispensing with the use of basic Chinese particles such as de for long sections. Nonetheless, they are able to convey narrative and emotion." Starting with Chinese classical novels, and then absorbing Western cultural influences, these were the foundation on which Yu would construct his works.

Thirdly, there is the attitude that one takes toward writing.

In the process of his searching and development as a writer, he was exposed to a mixed group of "friends" both classic and modern, Chinese and Western. Some of these friends have become almost "family" and have left a deep imprint on his thinking. Among those that Yu considers "family" are such influential creative talents as Wilde, van Gogh, and the Beatles.

As Yu's "family member" Wilde put it, he needed talent to pass his days, genius to create his writing. Yu has completely the same attitude toward his life and work: using his talents to pass his day, applying his genius to his writing: "You can't be dramatic in the way you lead your life. That would make life too exhausting!" So his lifestyle is very ordinary. He dresses like a bureaucrat and carries around his papers in a beat-up old briefcase. He's moderate in what he eats and drinks.

Everyone says that the writing reflects the person, but that's not necessarily the case.

"Sometimes writing is compensatory-where the writing doesn't reflect who the writer is but rather who he would like to become," Yu explains. When people get to know Yu, they tend to regard him as very Confucian-solemn and serious, not garrulous or humorous. Yet a man of this character writes works that are passionately bold, unrestrained, imposingly vast, and at times imbued with a remarkable sense of humor. These qualities are of course the result of applying his "genius."

Strong and rugged

Fourthly, there's the issue of a writer's technique.

"What makes Chang Hsiao-feng so unusual is that she is one of the few writers in Taiwan not to be influenced by Eileen Chang," Yu says, darting off into an uncertain direction before revealing his intent: "And I have certainly not been influenced by Eileen Chang!"

In Yu's analysis, the works of Eileen Chang and Qian Zhongshu became classics thanks to Hsia Chih-tsing's stamp of approval. "Hsia's excellent judgment of talent came from putting no stock in the leftists or modernists." Qian Zhongshu's works from the 1930s were created so long ago. In the 1960s Eileen Chang became the model for contemporary writers in Taiwan, and one after another these writers entered the "Chang school."

Yu admires Chang, but he's unwilling to join her school. He has no intention of emulating his contemporaries. His work has achieved its muscularity through his own character and his quest for his own style. Consequently, when turning his gaze backward, he absorbed Liang Shih-chiu and Qian Zhongshu but skipped Eileen Chang and completely ignored the insipid writing of the May Fourth Movement. In looking backward, he set his sights on something more distant. Eventually, he says, "I returned to the eight great writers of the Tang and Song dynasties. I returned to Mencius and The Record of the Grand Historian. I returned to the entire literature of the Chinese people."

"I threw myself into writing essays to try achieve a masculine pen and strong and rugged style," Yu once said. When he made that statement, it was in opposition to the May Fourth Movement. "In all honesty, the [insipid] writing style of Zhu Ziqing and Bing Xin... doesn't do anything for me. It's like a sketch or water colors, it lacks substance. Why can't writing be something strong and masculine? Why can't it create magnificence?"

Everlasting youthful passion

Therefore, he has left a few manifestos about art for those who study him:

Here's one: "The kind of essay I'm seeking should have sound, color and light. It should have the sweetness of wood and the boisterous bang of a big drum. It should move freely through the spectrum of a rainbow, and there should be a marvelous light illuminating what's between the lines." (The Left-Handed Muse)

Here's another: "In the furnace of Chinese language I want to forge a magic pill. I'm trying to shrink Chinese language, flatten it, stretch it, sharpen it, take it apart and reassemble it, fold it and stack it up, test its speed, density and flexibility. (Associations of the Lotus)

In 2009 Wang Ding-jun published his memoir The Literary Land, which included important evaluations of Yu. Wang wrote, "Yu Kwang-chung's language takes Western elements (via translation), classical elements (classical Chinese literary language), and local elements (dialect) and smelts them into an alloy with a flexible syntax that is sometimes clipped and sometimes expansive and maintains a galloping style with imagery and rhythm that break new ground rather than uphold tradition."

Yu is equally at home writing both essays and poetry. For his avid readers, Yu-both poet and essayist-represents eternal spring, limitless passion. Without him, their youths would have lacked something vital.

Split allegiances

Can a continent be a nation? / Can an island be a home? / Can a blink of an eye be a youth? / Can a lifetime be forever? --"Jianghu Shang"

Who am I? That's the question that Yu asks time and again.

It's a question he asks repeatedly because he continually moves, and is continually categorized-whether from a geographical or psychological standpoint. For Sixty Years: Selected Poems by Yu Kuang-chung, the editor Chen Fang-ming divided Yu's poems into three periods: Taipei, Hong Kong and Kaohsiung. The impact of the geographic environment on Yu's work is quite apparent. "Every time I change where I live and confront a new topography and environment, it's a test and challenge to my creativity as a writer," he says. "But change is also the currency of creation."

Take, for instance, moving to Kaohsiung. For his first two months there, Yu felt at a loss. Then he gradually settled in and got involved in life there. It gave him inspiration and material for his work. Whether a writer likes a place or not, Yu believes that when you can sit down and write about a place, it means you are settled there. And being settled means that you are interacting with the place and that "in one sense the place has become yours!"

Provence was van Gogh's, Shanghai Eileen Chang's, the Yangtze gorges Du Fu's, Hainan Island Su Dongpo's. What about Yu? Nanjing was once his, Taipei was once his, so were America and Hong Kong. And now? As Yu himself says, Kaohsiung is his. His domain is Qijin's lighthouse and the Taiwan Strait.

"Mainland China is my mother; Taiwan is my wife; Europe is my mistress." But America has no place in his loyalty or affections. "America is a woman I've abandoned"-someone he once loved but no longer has any feeling for or desire to see again. And if Taiwan is his wife, "Taipei is my first wife, Kaohsiung my second."

The complications engendered by moving and these mixed allegiances have time and again caused identity crises for Yu. His own sense of identification is uncertain. Poets say he's an academic, but academics disagree. Traditionalists say he's a modernist, but modernists say he's a traditionalist. He writes about Kaohsiung, and says that's where he's from, yet the city's natives say he's from Taipei. Taiwanese say he's Chinese. And the Chinese say he's a "homesick poet."

"If you start from an ideological standpoint, and focus only on one side of me, intentionally ignoring the other sides, then it's easy to pigeonhole me," Yu says.

Self-exploration

It has been Yu's fate to do battle against fundamentalists and to mix with writers of all ideological stripes. "Probably most people with clear identities are fundamentalists of some sort," he says. "Fundamentalists are happy. Things are simple for them; they have no need to pursue self-discovery."

His life, on the contrary, has been a long difficult journey of self-exploration, a journey on which he couldn't avoid politics. He has constantly challenged himself with political questions. "But that's just creative stimulation."

The relationship of Yu Kwang-chung and Chen Fang-ming became a topic of discussion because they started out as teacher and student and then had a major falling out. For 15 years, Chen, who had gone to America, was on a KMT blacklist and couldn't return to Taiwan.

Literature may have no influence over politics, but politics can certainly influence and distort literature. In 1977 Yu sparked a war of literary theory over Taiwan's Nativist Literature Movement by publishing his essay "The Wolf Nears." He was accused of "opposing nativism" or-to use a more current way of putting it-of "not loving Taiwan" or "selling Taiwan out." Compared with controversial stances that Yu had been taken in theoretical debates about modern poetry, the use of literary versus vernacular language, and abstract painting, Yu's comments made him many enemies-even if he had never equated "nativist" literature with the "proletarian literature" praised by Chairman Mao.

Back then Chen Fang-ming chose to stand amid the ranks of those championing nativism. When he met his former teacher Yu 20 years later, he recalls, "I knew that things could never return to the way they had been, when the master poet and I would read poetry together. Politics, political parties, ideology, and national identification had sowed seeds of impurity in our friendship." There was bitterness when they met again, but "literature must return to being an artistic discipline that is concerned with aesthetic judgments." The impurities in their relationship settled over time, and Chen Fang-ming eventually determined to put it to rest. "When people now ask me who my teachers were, I never hesitate. In literary matters, Yu Kwang-chung is my modernist and also my classicist."

And it's not just Chen Fang-ming. For many second- and third-generation poets in Taiwan, Yu has served as a father figure and model, as someone who has lit the path toward poetry.

And about that battle of literary theory over the "native soil," Yu later would say: "Back then, some people pressed me to make my position clearer, but I thought that would be pointless. The truth isn't necessarily arrived at by arguing more and more. The battle over theory makes it easy for second-rate literary historians to attach labels and divide people into black-and-white camps. But what writer of true accomplishment would rely on wars of literary criticism to find a lasting legacy?"

Belonging only to literature

In the end he knew who he was, and he no longer needed to fight with himself. But it was another matter when fights came to him. For instance, there was nothing personal in his criticism of the Ministry of Education's policy of reducing the emphasis on classical literature in school textbooks.

When he was 40, he would look upward and ask / Ask the starry sky who he was / Why was he still suffering down here? / Did one of the gods up above / Really have it in for him? / Now, after passing 60 / His mind is no longer consumed by fears and vexations / He long ago stopped quarreling with the constellations / The night has become quiet and gentle / Like a border city during a ceasefire / When his childhood companions are scattered to the ends of the earth / Who, apart from his desk lamp, still casts light upon him / As the story ends --"The Last Half of the Night"

He belongs only to literature. In the city of Changde in Hunan Province, there is a 2.5-kilometer dike along the Yuan River where people have carved poems starting from Qu Yuan from the Warring States period. There are also poems by Luo Fu, and Zheng Chouyu. Yu Kwang-chung has of course not been overlooked.

In that long promenade devoted to Chinese-language poetry, he realizes the promise he made to China in his youth: "China would find glory in his name." When the mainland selected eight contemporary essayists, he was included among the likes of Bing Xin, Ji Xianlin, Jin Kemu, Zhang Zhonghang, Wang Zengqi, and Yu Qiuyu. Chiu Ko Publishing founder Tsai Wen-fu is still convinced that Yu Kwang-chung will one day win the Nobel Prize. At any rate, as Yu himself has said, "Being recognized by one's own people is a writer's greatest honor."

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