Monday, April 5, 2010

''It's a pity that she died'' -- by LAI HE, 1894 - 1943, Taiwanese writer, KER LIAN TA SI LE, (可憐她死了), translated by Joe Hung, 2010, rewritten by Daniel Halevi Bloom, 2010

''It's A Pity That She Had to Die''

PART 1 of a short story [censored by the Japanese colonizers back in the day]

A small electric light lit up the cramped bedroom of the house on a quiet street in Taiwan in the early 1900s. Let's say it's around 1925. A man and his wife, both in their 40s, sat on the bed, chatting. If you could call it chatting. Their lives were in bad shape, and things looked dim. Perhaps a tragedy awaited? Read on, dear Reader.

In the bedroom, sleeping on the bed, was their daughter, about 12 years old. As you can see, they were not a rich family, far from it. Poor people, laborers, working to make ends meet in a land occupied by Japanese colonizers from afar. 

The man said to his wife: "A-chin, you know that red slip of paper the Japanese policeman gave us yesterday, was it another poll tax bill? I thought we already we arleady paid some kind of tax a few days ago. So what's this thing about? Can you show me that bill again? I'd like to see it."

His wife walked over the a table to pick up the tax bill and gave it to her husband. This was not a happy day in their little adode.

[NOTE: The next  23 lines of the original story, totaling some 250 Chinese characters, were censored -- BLACKED OUT -- by the Japanese Imperial colonial authorities, and the original manuscript is not available, so there is no way of knowing what Lai He wrote.]

The man's wife blamed herself for the family's troubles, but she was wrong to do so. She said to her husband of 15 years: "Oh, it's all  my fault. All the money we saved .....was spent when I got sick, to take care of me. I am sorry. If that never happened, if I never got sick, we wouldn't be in such dire straits now. It's all my fault. You know, the more I think about this, I think we should sell A-jin, poor girl, looking at her sleeping innocently on the bed as I talk! What did she do to deserve this?"

Her husband couldn't believe what he had just heard. "What? Sell our child, our dear A-jin? Are you crazy? Sure, some poor folk like us sometimes have to sell their kids, but not us, no way. We only have one A-jin. She's growing up, getting older. Soon she will be a young woman. Sell her? Over my dead body!"

The man wiped a tear from his eye.

"Even if we decide to sell to some other family, to get some money, she might not want to leave us. Did you
ever think of that? Anyways, even if we don't pay the tax now, I don't think the Japs will cut my head off, will they?  Those fucking bastards! I hope we are not forced to sell our only child!"

His wife looked sad, too. "It might be better if they chop off both our heads! With death, all our
troubles will over, finally," she said.

"Remember how our friend A-deh suffered?" she added. "And remember that woman, Lo-ko Chi? Wasn't she reduced to begging for food because her husband was was arrested and locked up for failing to pay his taxes to the Japs? It's not easy living this life under the Japanese masters, and in a poor country no less."

She added: "If they come and arrest you for failing to pay the poll tax, what will I do? Well, I am not concerned so much about myself, but what about poor A-jin, our daughter, did you think of that?"


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