The White Terror, a program of political persecution conducted under the aegis of martial law, reigns over post-war Taiwan. Yet, somehow, everyday life continues for three ordinary citizens in this subtle portrayal of a society struggling under the dark clouds of mutual suspicion, surveillance, and coercive control.
May 19, 1949, the declaration of martial law in Taiwan initiates the White Terror – nearly four decades of intense surveillance, disappearances, and political oppression targeting local Taiwanese resistance to Chiang Kai-shek’s authoritarian rule. Yet, even in this era of political menace, life goes on.…
A public school teacher with training in political warfare, Mr. Soo approaches everything with circumspection. Never one to rock the boat, he works to maintain political rectitude and counter-intelligence security at the school where he teaches. But above all, Mr. Soo hopes to provide his family with a better life during uncertain times.
Bun-hui has spent her life serving others. First the Japanese, then the mainlanders who arrived with Chiang Kai-shek, and now an elite local family. Times may change, but Bun-hui holds fast to the propriety that makes a good housekeeper; even as her employer is swept up in a dangerous political investigation, she refuses to air the faintest whiff of dirty laundry.
Miss Cassie is the daughter of local Taiwanese family with a fading aristocratic pedigree. In keeping with her class mores, she has chosen to study abroad in Paris, but her distance from Taiwan may not be enough to save her from suspicion when martial law is declared back home.
In the thirty years since the lifting of martial law, stories of the brutal indignities of the White Terror have gradually emerged. However, this collection of novellas stands out from other literary treatments of the period by foregoing the heart-wrenching cruelties and injustices in favor of unsentimental sketches of the struggle to maintain normalcy – the simple dreams, principles, and pursuits of ordinary life – in times of political repression.