Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Literary circle shocked by author’s admission

By Yang Yuan-ting, Lin Yen-tung and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Author Chen Hsuan-ju, also known as Mika Tanaka, holds up a copy of her book Wansei Come Home in Taipei on Oct. 10, 2015.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

Academics and writers on Sunday reacted with shock after award-winning author Mika Tanaka admitted to falsifying her personal history throughout her career.

Tanaka, whose real name is Chen Hsuan-ju (陳宣儒), won the Ministry of Culture’s coveted Golden Tripod Award in 2015 for her non-fiction book, Wansei Back Home (灣生回家), which was made into a documentary by the same name that won commercial success. The award came with a prize of NT$150,000.

At the time, Chen said that her Japanese maternal grandmother was a wansei, a story that she told at numerous promotional events for the book and the documentary.

Wansei is a Japanese-language term used to describe people who are the descendants of Japanese immigrants who came to Taiwan during the Japanese colonial era from 1895 to 1945.

However, the veracity of Chen’s personal history was questioned by critics, including social commentator Kuang Jen-chien (管仁健), who in 2015 accused Chen of fabricating her history.

Journalist Takeshi Yoshimura (吉村剛史), a former Taiwan bureau head of the Japanese-language Sankei Shimbun, last month published a story on Chen, saying he found multiple discrepancies in Chen’s account of her past that cast doubt on the integrity of her autobiography.

According to Yoshimura, Chen rendered her supposed Japanese grandmother’s name in Chinese as Tianzhong Yingdai (田中櫻代), but could not provide a correct or consistent pronunciation of Yingdai in Japanese, as each of its Kanji characters have at least two possible pronunciations.

When he confronted Chen on the issue during an interview, Chen offered to substitute Yingdai with another name, Yoshimura said, adding that there were other discrepancies in her story that did not check out.

For example, Chen claimed to have attended a Japanese kindergarten, but cannot speak the language fluently; she asserted to have visited Tsugaru, Japan, in the 1980s, but the city did not exist before 2005; she said she attended an international school for Japanese students in Kaohsiung, but failed to recall the names of any of her classmates or teachers, Yoshimura said.

Yoshimura’s report was subsequently picked up by Taiwan’s largest online academic bulletin board, the Professional Technology Temple, leading to a round of accusations against Chen, ranging from lying about personal details and copyright infringements of paintings.

After initially denying the accusations, Chen on Sunday issued a statement on the Facebook account of Wang Jung-wen (王榮文), chief executive officer of Yuan-Liou Publishing Co (遠流出版公司) and Chen’s publisher, admitting to making up her past and assuming the identity of wansei, among other fabrications.

Chen said the wansei she identified as Tianzhong is a real person named Sayo Tanaka she met and befriended in Kaohsiung, who later became Chen’s patron, and provided funds for her university education abroad, although she also admitted to not having any of the degrees from foreign institutions she claimed to have obtained.

Disappointed readers were only one party among those who were unhappy about Chen’s deception.

Sources said publishing houses whose nonfiction books lost prestige and profits to the now-discredited Chen in the Golden Tripod award in 2015 were clamoring for the ministry to remove Chen’s honors and award the prize to another author.

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