Academic journal article Antipodes

Chinese Culture Cures: Ouyang Yu's Representation and Resolution of the Immigrant Syndrome in the Eastern Slope Chronicle

Academic journal article Antipodes

Chinese Culture Cures: Ouyang Yu's Representation and Resolution of the Immigrant Syndrome in the Eastern Slope Chronicle

Article excerpt

ASIAN AUSTRALIAN LITERATURE HAS GROWN PROSPEROUS since Australia opened its door to Asian immigrants, as evidenced by the emergence of Asian Australian writers like Brian Castro, Lilian Ng, Lau Siew Mei, Beth Yahp, Hsu-Ming Teo, and so on. The Chinese diasporic writers from the various parts of Asia tell their hometown stories and share their migrant experience in their host countries. Ouyang Yu, a bilingual writer from mainland China "is perhaps the most indecorous writer currently at work today" (Birns 194). Ouyang Yu came to Australia in 1991 as an international student to do his Ph.D. research on the representation of Chinese people in Australian fictions. Since then, he has been writing in English seriously. He is so prolific that he has produced more than fifty books, both in Chinese and English, and has had hundreds of poems and articles published in newspapers and magazines in Australia and overseas within twenty years.

The Eastern Slope Chronicle, his first English novel, is a controversial work in China and overseas. Wang Labao, a professor at Suzhou University in mainland China, states that "Ouyang Yu betrays a dangerous resentment against his homeland. Catering to the mainstream population of the author's adopted culture, the book speaks of China and its people in all the abusive extremities of Orientalism deliberately" (81). The Eastern Slope Chronicle receives a negative reception in mainland China partly because Ouyang Yu fails to express a sense of nostalgia to his homeland. However, some Australian scholars attach importance to this novel by virtue of its complicated and genuine representation of Asian Australians. At the end of her article '"Flexible Citizenship': Strategic Chinese Identities in Asian Australian Literature," Regina Lee concludes that 'The Eastern Slope Chronicle tackles head-on the complexities of re-negotiating racial and cultural identity amidst changing environments, sentiments and perceptions," although "it offers no satisfactory resolution to the dilemma of migrants 'trapped in between'" (226).

The fate of a Chinese immigrant amid tangled East- West relations is a long-lasting and obsessive theme in Ouyang Yu's works. For example, at the end of his famous poetry collection Songs of the Last Chinese Poet, the narrator shouts out "The West-Will-Win!" which resembles the phrase World-WideWeb in forms and alliteration, "indicating the irresistible power of the western cultural hegemony" (Qian 187). Much discussion has been made about the "doubleness" and the "dilemma" of Chinese Australians in Ouyang Yu's works. However, no one has ever shed light on a way to cure the "sick man from asia" (Ouyang, Songs 1) as well as his "ambivalent in-between-ness of diasporic identification as violent conflict, internal as well as external" (Ommundsen, "Hello Freedom"). In this paper, I would like to describe this unsettled state of being of the Chinese immigrants as an "immigrant syndrome" that is caused by linguistic alienation, academic exploitation, and cultural displacement in Australia. Focusing on The Eastern Slope Chronicle, I would argue Ouyang Yu suggests that Chinese culture will help to cure the disturbing "immigrant syndrome" of Chinese Australians and will also help Australia to solve its own problems and achieve a true multicultural Australia.

The title The Eastern Slope Chronicle implies multiple symbolic meanings that run through the whole novel. Structurally, The Eastern Slope Chronicle could be defined as a postmodern novel due to its application of postmodern narrative techniques. The main line of the novel is Dao Zhuang's revisit to his hometown, Eastern Slope, which was a place of exile for the famous poet Su Dongpo in the Song Dynasty. From the first-person narration, Dao Zhuang tells his journey in Eastern Slope and recollects his early days when he was a postgraduate student in Shanghai in 1989 and then migrated to Australia. In this sense, the title refers to the journey in Eastern Slope, the life story of a person from Eastern Slope, and the changes that the Eastern Slope city has undergone from ancient times to the modern age. …

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