Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Former US diplomat takes a peep at `the soul of Taiwan'

Syd Goldsmith has penned a romance that takes a look at his adopted home country


By Syd Goldsmith
Available from

After years of thinking about life in Taiwan and experiencing it on many different levels, Syd Goldsmith sat down and wrote a novel about this country he calls home. The former director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Kaohsiung Office (from 1985 to 1989), Goldsmith is now semi-

retired and lives in Taipei with his Taiwanese wife and their two children. The novel, his first attempt at fiction, is Jade Phoenix, and is available in from, an Internet publisher.

Goldsmith, who is in his mid-60s, first came to Taiwan in 1968 as a US government official. In a recent interview, the former diplomat spoke about why he wrote the novel and how he went about publishing it.

Fluent in Mandarin and Taiwanese, as well as Cantonese and Spanish, Goldsmith grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, attended Columbia University for both his undergradute and gradute studies.

He the then began work as a foreign service officer for the US government.

When asked how the novel took shape, Goldsmith said that, while he had never written a novel before, he has authored many commentaries and opinion articles about Taiwan that have been published in the Los Angeles Times and the Asian Wall Street Journal, among other overseas publications.

"Jade Phoenix had been germinating in my mind for a long time," he said.

"And in an attempt to understand Taiwan better, after all my years here, I created some fictional characters and they began to develop their own personalities, with their hopes, fears and conflicts. That was the genesis of the book."

Goldsmith said he wrote much of the novel during quiet times while riding the train from Taipei to Hualien twice a week, where he gave flute lessons to music students. Goldsmith has often performed at various venues around the country and counts music as one of his many joys in life.

"I've lived in Taiwan for some 26 years and I think this explains my drive to understand the people here, and why I sat down to write my novel," he added. "I first came here as a US foreign service officer in 1968. Later, after language trai-ning in Mandarin and Taiwanese, I served as the Taiwanese political officer at the American embassy in 1974 in Taipei. I came back to the country in 1985 as director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Kaohsiung branch office, the unoffical equivalent of a consulate general -- and I stayed in that position until 1989."

Jade Phoenix has been described by one reviewer as a "collage of history, politics, mystery and romance." The

reviewer, Pat Averbach, director of Chautauqua Writers Center in New York, wrote that she saw Goldsmith's novel as an insightful overview of Taiwan during the 1970s as the US moved towards recognition of Beijing.

Goldsmith said he enjoyed writing the book. "It's a love story and is about Taiwan's history as well," he said. "I've created a Web site for the book, and my publisher's Web site allows Web surfers to read the first chapter online for free."

The amateur novelist said he does not plan to retire and that he remains active with various consulting jobs, adding that he is enjoying being a father to his young chidlren in his 50s and 60s and relishes the time he spends with them. In early March, Goldsmith traveled to the US to visit relatives and friends in New Jersey, in addition to finding time to give several public readings from his novel.

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