Thu, May 01, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Book review: Rose, Rose, I Love You

Wang Chen-ho’s ‘Rose, Rose, I Love You,’ originally published in Chinese and translated here by Howard Goldblatt, is a ribald political farce about prostitutes in Hualien who must learn English in order to help them service 300 US GIs who are on leave from the Vietnam War

By Enru Lin  /  Staff reporter

What emerges sounds like an acerbic rejection of the idea of uniform language or literary aesthetic: The text is like a hipster who tries on new clothes and makes them all look ironic.

It could also be a searching look at a protracted moment in Taiwan’s history — one extending to this day — of testing out many trappings of identity, often for the purpose of outside consumption. But the novel is open-ended, offering no glimpses of its true self: In the final scene, the prostitutes intone the Lord’s Prayer and Teacher Dong launches into a reverie: The Americans are coming, greeted by 50 world-class bar girls wearing cheongsams or eye-catching Aboriginal dress. The ladies sing the titular song, Rose, Rose, I Love You, first in Chinese and next in English. Each is a shimmering ambassador of an ethnic identity none wholly inhabits, and no one is so sure of who she is.

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