‘Eco-fiction’ novel from Taiwan praised

By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - Page 5

An “eco-fiction” novel published in 2011 by Taipei nature writer Wu Ming-yi (吳明益), titled The Man With the Compound Eyes (複眼人), is gaining good reviews after its English translation was published last month by a London publisher.

Wu’s story mirrors humankind’s growing concern about the fate of the Earth.

Translated by Darryl Sterk, a Canadian expatriate in Taiwan, the book is even being hailed by some as the next Life of Pi, with book reviewers in London already weighing in on it.

Writing in the Financial Times at the end of August, critic Trisha Andres gave the novel a thumbs up, but with reservations.

“[Wu’s] new novel, his first to be translated into English, explores big ecological issues — from ocean pollution and seal hunting to quarry mining and forest preservation — but he weighs down an otherwise inventive narrative with labored metaphors,” she wrote.

“Nevertheless, the depiction of [the main character’s] magical realm and his innocent wonder at this unfamiliar and murky world is imaginative and moving,” she said.

Jack Parsons, writing on the SciFiNow Web site, called the novel “beautiful, but uneven” and said it was a “perplexing postmodern fairy tale.”

“On the face of it, [the] novel is a heavy-handed metaphor for humanity’s environmental impact,” he wrote. “However, beautiful writing and the survivors’ relationships make for a more nuanced read, even if it disappears into philosophical metaphysics towards the end.”