chapter  6
Weak links, literary spaces, and comparative Taiwan
ByJING TSU
Pages 22

Shortly after receiving the first Nobel Prize in Literature ever awarded to a Chinese writer in 2000, Gao Xingjian accepted an invitation to visit Taiwan. It’s a place where he had never been. For two weeks, he traveled to the cities of Taipei, Miaoli, Qingshui and Yilan, and held public dialogues with renowned Taiwan writers and critics like Huang Chunming, Li Qiao, and Ye Shitao. Speaking from a position of exile, he found points of resonance with his interlocutors on the island, where a similarly fraught relationship to mainland China persisted for most of the twentieth century. Reflections on the shared experiences of artistry, inhibited freedom, and the often politicized act of writing connected the honorable guest to his hosts. It was a meeting of minds. Beneath the surface, however, things did not feel that simple, and an odd asymmetry was palpable. There was Gao’s frank admission that he knew nothing about the works of Ye, or Taiwan literature and history, in contrast to Ye’s account of writing under the White Terror during the repressive days of the Nationalist rule, where exile, compared to Gao’s better circumstance in France, was a luxury many could not afford.1