Wu Zhuo-liu: realist writer who straddles the period before and after Taiwan’s retrocession

Chinese Name: 吳濁流
: June 28, 1900
: October 7, 1976
Hsinchu County (Northern Taiwan)

Wu Zhuo-liu, whose real name was Wu Jian-tian, was a Hakka poet, novelist and reporter, who was famous for his novels such as “Orphan of Asia (亞細亞的孤兒).” Wu Zhuo-liu was a bridge between Taiwan literature in the Japanese era and postwar Taiwan literature. He devoted his life and money to the seeding of Taiwan literature and was hailed as an "iron and blood poet."

Wu was considered a member of the local clan in Xinpu, and his grandfather was a traditional Chinese poet. He grew up under Japanese rule, first receiving traditional Chinese study as a child, and later receiving a Japanese education. After graduating from Taipei Normal School in 1920, Wu began his teaching career at a Taiwan public school.

During the time he worked as a teacher, Wu wrote a dissertation titled "School and Autonomy (學校和自治)," in which he stood for having a "liberal education" and criticized the officials in charge of education. He was considered by the Japanese colonial government authorities to be extremely ideological. Therefore, he was transferred to a public school in rural Miaoli County.

Wu published his debut novel "Water Month (水月)" and "Gold Carp in the Mud (泥沼中的金鯉魚)" in Japanese at the age of 37 and published it in the Taiwan New Literature (臺灣新文學) magazine in March 1936. However, because of the "Emperors’ People Movement," the Taiwan New Literature magazine was forced to end publication, which caused him to lose grounds to express himself.

In 1941 he went to mainland China to serve as a reporter for Nanjing Xinbao. In 1942, he returned to Taiwan to serve as a reporter and began to write a long-form novel called “Huzhiming” (later changed to "Orphan of Asia"). The content deeply depicts the sad soul of Taiwanese people and was recognized as a classic of Taiwan literature.

In 1964, he founded the Taiwan Literature and Art (臺灣文藝) magazine and trained many local literary writers such as Chen Ying-zheng (陳映真), Huang Chun-ming (黃春明), and Wang Yu-he (王禎和). In 1969, he established the Wu Zhuo-liu Literary Award with his pension; it later became a famous literary award in Taiwan.

Wu's autobiographical trilogy “Orphan of Asia”, “The Fig Tree (無花果)” and “Taiwanese Forsythia (台灣連翹)” were created out of danger. Banned during the era of Japanese rule, "Orphan of Asia” uttered the complaints of six million Taiwanese people living under Japanese rule, and also symbolized the tragic destiny of Taiwanese people under alien rule.

"Fig" is an autobiography of the first half of Wu's life. It describes the author's experience from Japanese rule to the early postwar period. The end of the novel was published at the end of 1967 and was serialized in the "Taiwan Literature and Art" magazine in 1968. Because the article described the February 28 incident, it was first published in a single book in 1970 and was listed as a banned book by the Kuomintang government.

Since then, it has only been circulated underground in the United States and Taiwan until it was formally released in Taiwan in 1988. "Taiwanese Forsythia" is the last book written by Wu. The original version was written in Japanese and translated and published by Chong Chao-cheng ten years after W's death. It describes the secrets of Taiwan’s political arena before and after the war.

Among Wu’s works, "Fig" faithfully recorded the mental history of Wu Kuang-liu's generation of intellectuals under colonial rule. He took risks to write the most important point of this book. He hoped that the Taiwanese intellectuals of future generations could gain lessons from history from the 228 Incident and avoid repeating the major mistakes made by his generation of intellectuals.

Wu spent his life using the pen as his sword and spared no effort to promote Taiwan literature. In an era when Taiwan literature had not yet become mainstream, he endeavored to promote it, allowing himself to stand in the era of political storms, and also enabling Taiwan literature to receive more attention in today's society.