An English translation of novelettes by Lai He (賴和), the “father of Taiwanese new literature,” was published on Friday in an attempt to introduce early Taiwanese literary works to a wider international audience, the Council for Hakka Affairs said.
Lai He Fiction contains 21 short stories penned by Lai, a renowned author of Hakka ancestry who, because of his sympathy for the poor during the Japanese colonial period, was also nicknamed the “Matsu of Changhua” in reference to the compassionate Taoist deity.
His works also offered valuable insights into society at that time, Council for Hakka Affairs Minister Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) said.
“Lai He was an important figure in the development of Taiwan’s literature because his work dug into the lives of Taiwanese commoners and his persistence in writing reminded us of the Hakka spirit,” Huang said.
“I often heard people say that Lai’s work wasn’t easy to read. The language shifts repeatedly between Mandarin and Hoklo [commonly known as Taiwanese] and a good knowledge of the socio-historical background is required of readers,” said Lai Yueh-yen (賴悅顏), the author’s eldest grandson and founder of the Lai He Museum.
The English version was translated by Central News Agency (CNA) chairman Joe Hung (洪健昭), a veteran journalist.
“We are pleased to say that CNA chairman Joe Hung, who is well versed in English, Chinese and Japanese, did a wonderful job in presenting this Taiwanese classic to English readers,” Huang said, noting that this was the first English publication of stories by Hakka authors sponsored by the council.
Prior to its publication by the CNA, the work appeared in series in Hung’s old newspaper, the China Post, five days a week for six months.
“It was well received by -readers,” said Jack Huang (黃致祥), the Post’s director and publisher.
“We used to get calls from our readers asking why the stories were not printed on weekends,” Huang said.
This was a big step forward for Hakka authors whose writings deserve international attention, Huang Yu-chen said.
Hakka literature could even be recognized for the Nobel Prize in Literature if translated into English, Huang Yu-chen added.
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