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

The ministry issued a statement on Sunday, saying it “will invite publishing experts to discuss whether the identity of the author had an effect in the work being considered for the Golden Tripod’s award for the nonfiction genre; if necessary, we do not rule out revisiting the decision made in 2015 to award the said book.”

“There was no way to have an educated guess on how to pronounce the name Yingdai in Japanese,” said Lin Shuei-fu (林水福), an authority on Japanese literature and professor of Japanese literature at South Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

Calling on more disclosure and investigation into the affair, he said Chen’s claims that Sayo Tanaka had sponsored her education in Japan and Europe can be easily verified through attendance records.

“I really hope she did not fake all of it,” he added.

“As a genre, literary journalism combines the literary art and truths; Chen — or Tanaka — incorporated a deceptive personal history into her story, which is a violation of the tenets of literary journalism,” said Yang Tsui (楊翠), a prominent writer and professor of Chinese literature at National Dong Hwa University.

Yang said she believes removing Chen’s personal account from her book does not detract from a reader’s ability to understand or evaluate the story, and Chen might have claimed to be of wansei descent to add flavor to the narrative, but “those actions had utterly destroyed her integrity as an author.”

“There should be no forgiveness for falsification in Taiwan. Such incidents would serve only to chill Taiwanese hearts,” she added.

Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明), director of Taiwanese literature at National Chengchi University who had previously endorsed Chen Hsuan-ju’s second book in the fiction genre, said he was dazzled by Chen Hsuan-ju’s literary style.

Chen Hsuan-ju’s deception could undo Taiwanese academics’ efforts in reconstructing the historical memory of wansei, he said.

“The Mika Tanaka affair was not just a case of fabricating an identity. It is a sacrilege against Taiwanese history. She exploited Taiwan’s historical amnesia that created the necessary space for falsehoods to survive,” he added.

Wang said that the editorial desk at Yuan-Liou Publishing is considering to pull Chen’s books Wansei Back Home and My Home in the South (我在南方的家) from circulation, but added he believes the author’s work “had some contribution to Taiwanese history.”

In reference to calls from Consumers’ Foundation vice chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) for the publisher to compensate readers who want to return their books, Wang said he would “respect the foundation’s views and findings and a careful discussion of this incident may benefit the industry as a whole.”

Taiwanese writer Zhang Dachun (張大春) said the maturity of a reading public depends on the ability to exercise logic by publishers, the media and the readership at a collective scale, and the incident might have a positive effect for developing public maturity.

“The public does not need to go on a witch hunt against Chen Hsuan-ju; her work did call public attention to wansei as a topical concern,” he added.

The documentary, the book and the creator as an individual should be considered separate entities; if the corpus of works do not contain falsehoods, then they should be accepted on their own merits, Man Asian Literary Prize nominee Egoyan Zheng (伊格言) said.

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