Review: The Surveillance—Tales of White Terror in Taiwan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Competent But Unfitted

The "Story in Story" approach in the short fiction of The Surveillance
Bird photo in courtesy of Rachel Wu



ISBN: 9789574389070


Story in Story

Filipmann G. Pearson(Author)


The story in story approach is not an uncommon strategy for fiction writers, and it is repeatedly employed in C.J. Anderson-Wu’s ambitious collection of short stories The Surveillance. 


Let’s see its Table of Content first:



In “The Friend in the Remote South”, the author points out the connection between Taiwan(Republic of China) and South Africa during the 1970s; the former was replaced by China(People’s Republic of China) in the United Nations, and the later was sanctioned by the international society because of its apartheid policies. Then in “The Surveillance”, Nadine Gordimer’s novel Burger’s Daughter becomes the theme during a book reading closely under surveillance. 


In “The Tax Collector”, the story published in a newspaper by the protagonist Yang San-Jih, who appears in four of the stories in this collection and is supposedly the personage of writer Yang Ching-Chu whom Anderson-Wu dedicates this collection to, is based on a short story Yang Ching-Chu had published about four decades ago. 


The Youth Taiwan mentioned in the “Life Looked at Through A Single Window” is in fact a documentary Our Youth, In Taiwan by director Fu Yu, whose speech suggesting an independent Taiwan from China during the 2018 Golden Horse Festival Ceremony caused great turmoil in the cinema industries across Taiwan Strait. Anderson-Wu imagined what would happen had the incident been in the 1980s, when freedom of speech was not a fact of life in Taiwan.


Some of the stories in this collection are fictional, like the banned book in “Marketing”, and the stolen story in the “Stolen Life, Stolen Story”. 


Because this collection is very much about censorship, using banned books to delineate how it was can help readers today better understand that the operation of censorship went beyond restricting people’s freedom of expression, it was integral to systematic repression.  Additionally, with so many stories in stories, the author meant to investigate the role of literature in resistance, especially in totalitarian societies. It is the past of Taiwan, but it still is the present of many societies today. This book stimulates us to think about the possibilities of resisting injustice, an action not only belonging to history, but even more necessary today. 


Submitted: May 24, 2021

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