A comic-strip version of The Ugly Chinaman, a popular book by human rights activist and writer Bo Yang (柏楊), will be soon be published.
In The Ugly Chinaman, Bo Yang presented controversial, in-depth criticism of Chinese culture, depicting the Chinese as dirty, noisy and vainglorious brown-nosers who are incessantly fighting amongst themselves.
The book came as a shock when it was first published in Taiwan in 1984, said Chang Hsiang-hua (張香華), Bo Yang’s wife.
PHOTO: HSIEH WEN-HUA, TAIPEI TIMES
Although the book was banned in China until 2000, underground copies had spread as far as the Xinjiang region and Heilongjiang Province by then, she said.
In last August, Bo began planning a comic version of the book, saying that it could reach out to young people today, who tend not to read.
The publisher of the comic edition, Hsu Jung-chang (徐榮昌), said he had long been a fan of Bo’s original work.
Jung said he admired Bo’s faculty for critical analysis and that the author’s sharp insight had not faded over the decades.
Cartoonist MoMo — who was born in 1980 and is 60 years younger than Bo — was given the task of drawing the comic version.
MoMo said that the age difference meant that she could reinterpret the classic book from the perspective of a younger generation. She hopes to make the comic version a tool of civic education across generations and national boundaries and pass on Bo’s gift of critical thinking to others.
MoMo, who has worked as a cartoonist for 20 years, has never published a complete comic book.
“When I agreed to take the job, I didn’t know who Bo Yang was and didn’t know how serious it was,” she said.
The only thing that Bo Yang asked from her was to “make it really funny and make him look stupid,” she said.
In the illustrated version of The Ugly Chinaman, Bo will appear as one of the characters, who often argues with others.
Contemporary issues, including campus shootings in the US and the Japanese whaling industry, will be discussed in the book alongside the orginal themes of the problems with Chinese culture.
“The most difficult part is softening the image of Bo Yang, who is a serious person,” MoMo said.
Bo began experiencing serious health problems in September 2006 and he has been in and out of hospitals several times since then. Because of his health troubles, he has stopped writing.
Chang said on Thursday as he visited Bo in the hospital that Bo, who was recently hospitalized again for pneumonia, follows Taiwanese politics closely despite his illness.
Bo, who was a political prisoner for 10 years during the Martial Law era, is disappointed in the Democratic Progressive Party administration, but is worried about the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) return to power, Chang said.
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