Life and death
CHEN Yingzhen (Translated by ZHANG Jingyuan)
Ever since I started writing fiction when I was young, the subject of death has been a constant theme in my writing, owing to the hopeless contradiction between thought and reality. But the reality of my own life was that I had no moments of despair, no longing for death. On the contrary, I was insensible of adversity, fundamentally optimistic, and not at all afraid of being alone.
When the calendar page turned to the second day of 2002, I went through a period of being technically, theoretically, dead. But I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and returned to the world of light and life.
I had been suffering from atrial fibrillation for over ten years. Thanks to regular medication, this condition did not interfere with the quality of my life and work. But in the last year or two, my heartbeat had grown increasingly irregular. After careful thought, I decided to follow the advice of a doctor whose expertise in this area was well known both in Taiwan and abroad, and undergo a kind of heart operation called “catheter radiofrequency ablation.”
Under local anesthesia I could hear the conversation between the cardiologist and his assistant. I had gone into the operation knowing that it should last about three hours. Today all I can remember from their conversation is this:
“If we still can’t get the catheter in this time, we should just give it up.”
Then my mind went blank, as in a deep sleep.
The next time I heard someone’s voice, it was my wife. I was faintly aware that I was lying on my back on a hospital bed being wheeled at high speed. “The operation is over …. Now they are sending you for another operation.” My wife whispered in my ears. “Stay strong! All your effort! ...”
Chen Yongshan [陳永善] was born in 1937 in Taiwan. Chen Yingzhen [陳映真] is his literary pen name, whereas the pen name Xu Nan-cun [許南村] is used for his review articles. He started writing literary works in 1959, and was incarcerated for seven years since 1968. After his release from prison, he continued writing and involved himself in various leftist social practices. His writings and deeds remain one of the most important resources for leftist thoughts and practices in Taiwan.
Zhang Jingyuan teaches Chinese Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Culture, Georgetown University.