Mon, Apr 29, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Shooting for the stars

Largely ignored at home, nature writer Wu Ming-yi’s eco-fantasy is attracting attention overseas with translations already set for the UK, France and the US

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

But newspaper reviews of the novel have been sparse, according to Tan, with only one national newspaper reviewing the book. A few literature blogs have taken notice of the book, but plaudits for the book have spread mostly by word of mouth.

All this could change, of course, when Wu’s novel comes out in Britain and the US next fall, as Taiwan’s media will probably rush to print reviews by foreign newspapers.

When asked how he feels about the prospect of seeing his novel published in English and French overseas, Wu said that he’s “thrilled.”

“It means readers from different cultural backgrounds will be able to share in my story, and to discover and interpret what I’ve written in different ways,” Wu said. “They’ll also get a chance to better understand Taiwanese culture and literature.”

Government boost

While Taiwan’s mass media have not given much space to news of Wu’s book or its chances for success overseas, the government has been a big player behind the scenes, Tan said.

“The Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (國立台灣文學館) have both been very much behind the book,” he said. “The museum gave translation subsidies to both the British and the French publishers, and the Ministry of Culture has been instrumental in helping us connect with some important international literary festivals.”

Gaffric, the French translator, is writing his doctoral thesis in France on ecological issues in Taiwanese literature.

“The novel oscillates between Taiwan settings and overseas settings, and it echoes global environmental crises that impact on everyone,” he said.

Critic Antonio Chen (陳建忠), writing about the book in Asymptote, an international online literary journal, has called it ‘’a masterpiece of environmental literature about an apocalyptic Aboriginal encounter with modernity.”

In the story that Wu weaves, “Taiwanese people are too interested in developing the east coast [in 2029] to clean it up,” he wrote.

Chen added: “Trash, resource shortages, and the destruction of Taiwan’s coastline as a result of the pursuit of unenlightened self-interest are unremarkable raw materials, but [Wu] mashes them into art. Seen through his compound eyes, daily life is dramatized and fictionalized, and the reader [is] inspired to feats of imagination and action.”

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