I was first attracted by this book for its brief introduction—-“A graphic, sensuous and surprising novel about the aftermath of Tiananmen Square—-by a young woman who was there. ” It is also said that this book was published in Taiwan in 1992; though banned in the inland of China, it circulated there. And what I am reading is the first publication in the West. Man, more often than not, is inclined to be drawn by an unknown and mysterious world, and I’m not the exception.
I’ve long been curious about what exactly happened in the bloody 1989, as up till now talking about or even mentioning this event remains something horrible and prohibited. Besides, Summer of Betrayal not only indicates the collapse of conviction after the Riot on June 4th, 1989, but also tells the betrayal of the actress’ lover, which serves as the vivid embodiment of a Chinese old saying “Misfortune never comes singly. ” It is the interwoven clues that seize me and push me into right-away savor of it.
As I proceed with book, I find that it is very different from what I’ve imagined and expected. Surely, it begins with a dramatic description of a young woman’s escape from Tiananmen Square on June 4th. At dawn on June morning in 1989 following the brutal repression of student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Lin Ying (the actress) fled the bullets, tanks and soldiers, trying desperately to get to the flat she shared with her lover.
When she discovered him in bed with his estranged wife, she must strike out again on her own into the maelstrom of terror and risk that Beijing had become.
Following the short-lived depiction of the Riot that night comes the long story of Lin Ying’s inner changes and outer experiences, dotted with flashbacks of her past life. I’d like to regard it more of a popular literature. Though after finishing the book I don’t get as much information about 1989 Event as I have wished, I catch a glimpse of the time of 80s, and learn something evoking sympathy from the content and something worth contemplating from the form. The book is divided into four chapters—-4 June 1989, 15 June 1989, 14 July 1989, 2 August 1989.
Lin Ying fled through a city alight with flames, came home only to find Chen Yu, her lover, sleep with his estranged wife, escaped like crazy to a street where she was taken shelter from Li Jiangjiang, co-habited with the latter and met with a group of “lost” intellectuals who’d escaped narrowly from that terrible night. The following chapter is an interlude about Lin Ying’s earlier ages. She was born in a destitute family in a mountain village. She was ordered by her father to carry heavy sands to earn money. She had always been longing for the outside world. Perhaps there, at last, the sky was clear and blue, seagulls called, white sails danced on billows under the setting sun. ” She met a thin, short boy sitting on a rocky point on the far bank, like her, just staring at the Yangtze water. Due to the similar circumstances they were in, she fell in love with the boy, and didn’t change her mind even after his imprisonment. A pure heart she had at that time. He was her first man, also the first one that hurt her to the core. Not willing to accept the futility of a barren, ignorant life, she wanted a chance to escape this generation-after-generation cycle of bitterness.
Her talent in writing turned to be a link between Chen Yu and her, as well as the chance for her to study in Beijing, which altogether proved to be a disaster of her life—-the betrayal of Chen Yu, together with that of the city of Beijing sent her down to the abyss of darkness. She slept with Li Jiangjiang, and was abandoned by Chen Yu with dirty and piercing words after the latter caught them in bed. To get things worse, she overheard the filthy bet in the Degraded Survivors’ Club: who could lay Lin Ying first. Insult after insult nearly pushed her out of breath.
Influenced by her open-minded lady friends Hua Hua and Shao Liuliu, she began to ponder over the relationship between men and women. “A crack in the sky opened inti a gaping hole, issuing forth blood and fire. Gong Gong, the male god, had burst it open with his head in the heat of s struggle for power. Nu Wo, the female god, ancestor of we women, finally patched the sky back together again, despite the searing pain. Why is it that from the ancient past till today whenever things go wrong, it’s always women who have to put it right? ” Hua hua said that men divide women into three types: wives, witches and whores.
The tiring work goes to wives, the evil work goes to witches, the dirty work goes to whores—-only men are allowed to be great and wise. Their words sound feminist but I think there is sense in them, just take Lin Ying as example. Chen Yu was latter arrested for he persuading students back to schools, because once students went back to their schools the authorities would lack the appropriate excuse of arresting those who had participated the Disturbance. Rumors had it that Chen Yu had slept with his estranged wife and Lin Ying at the same time.
Perhaps Wu Wei, another poet, thought Lin Yin licentious and wanted to have an affair with her, yet Lin Ying saw through what was in his mind. Yan Yan committed suicide for being involved in the Disturbance. They were all in a turbulent mood. “My generation was born to enact a tragedy. We came into the world in 1960s, when tens of millions of people were dying of famine; we were not the fruit of desire but the instinctive reaction of the human race to replace itself after a catastrophe. Then came the Cultural Revolution; under the brilliant glare of the shining Red Sun we grew up pale and thin, hiding in dark, gray corners.
Our youth was spent in the emptiness attendant upon a loss of faith, in ferocious attention to all kinds of hope, but when we wanted to cash in on them we discovered that the world is not built on hope alone. So the first half of our lives has been a series of self-contradictions. If there is going to be a second half, it can only mean drifting along from day to day, resigned to circumstances, competing to be good at feigning ignorance. ” This introspection reflects turmoil in Lin Ying’s head. She began to question about the hypocritical world and could no longer tell the significance of life.
This is what chapter three narrates. In chapter four, Lin Ying seemed to go to the very extreme. The National Education Commission put out an official document canceling the writing program, saying that the nation should not spend money cultivating degenerate writers who could write nothing but trash that people didn’t want to read and couldn’t understand. Li Jiangjiang was going abroad. Lin Ying found herself nowhere to go. Only her self was left. “In real life we walk a tightrope, trying to maintain balance. On the one side are things we must know; on the other, things we can’t know.
On one side are permitted experiences; on the other, experiences we ache for and dream of. How many times do thoughts of sex push us to the precipice? We tremble, we’re afraid, we dare not take another step. We’re even scared of looking around to see clearly. Lust may be a kind of poison that destroys our lives. But the minute you understand that life by its nature, is going to end anyway, the poison turns from a dangerous temptation to the promise of rebirth. ” These words could explain her extremist behavior—-drawing with her naked body, dancing naked in front of her friends, and making love with different guys with friends watching.
This group of intellectuals just chose to follow the suit. In the crazy world they were venting their confusion, frustration and desperation. “After the fall of the city, with everything lost, the only thing that I have , that belongs to me, is myself. Why is it that women are ones who give permission? And why do they think it is they who will lose something? Men are the ones who really lose out. ” Lin Ying thought. Sexual freedoms and erotic liberation seem to be only freedoms left to her, but these, too, may lead to betrayal. Li Jiangjiang ran away from the astonishing spot.
He would never have believed that Lin Ying would be reduced to this. Their parting this way was unexpected, and every time her parting with her men was unexpected. When I read the lines that she walked naked into the paddy wagon with handcuffs around her wrists, I feel grievous. She was actually representative of generations at that time. She could have led a happy life in a different circumstance for she was talented, ambitious and thoughtful. Her awareness of being a confident and self-independent female, against the background of Disturbance, distorted into a huge mess.
She must find her bearings on her own. This book could be read as a semi-autobiography of the author Hong Ying, who has experienced the bloody Disturbance in 1989 and so had a close understanding about what has gone through those students’ minds. Hong Ying changes her point of view in narration between the third person and the first person, trying to strike a balance between objectivity and subjectivity, which I think is very successful. However, there is something that I can’t agree with in this translation version—- too much foreignization.
Let me take some examples: “to be promoted was harder than for one of the three thousand beauties of the harem palace to be selected for the emperor’s favors. ” ”So long as the mountains stay green, you won’t have to worry about firewood. ” “the only different being that so many people had learned to sweep the snow only in front of their own doors. ” As the English version is directed towards Westerners who probably don’t have much idea about Chinese allusions, and the purpose of the translation is to inform, domestication is what I recommend.