Insisting on being identified as a Taiwanese in international competitions is a way to give prominence to a voice from Taiwan, author Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) said on Saturday.
Wu in March became the first Taiwanese writer to be nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, for the English version of his Chinese-language novel, The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記).
The Booker Prize Foundation originally listed his home nation as Taiwan, but changed it to “Taiwan, China” following a complaint by the Chinese embassy in London.
The foundation reversed the move after Wu protested.
While Wu’s book did not win, he was invited by the Representative Office in the UK to speak at seminars in London on Friday and Saturday.
On the sidelines of the second forum, Wu told reporters that he insisted that the name of his home nation be used “not to prove anything, but to give prominence to a voice from Taiwan.”
Taiwan is under tremendous suppression on the international stage, therefore, the voices of its 23 million people need to be heard, he said.
“I’m one of those voices and I insisted on letting others hear that voice,” Wu said.
He would like to see greater coexistence of cultural identities in Taiwan, he said.
“I hope Taiwan can accept and tolerate all cultural identities,” he said.
“Only by respecting each other’s identities can we accept each other and embrace other cultures. Otherwise, the national identity issue in Taiwan could divide its people and destroy the shared emotions of its people and all the possibilities, resulting in tragedy,” he said.
The Stolen Bicycle tells the story of a writer who embarks on an epic quest in search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle and soon finds himself caught up in the stories of Lin Wang (林旺), the oldest elephant that ever lived; soldiers who fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia during World War II; and the secret worlds of butterfly handicraft makers and antique-bicycle fanatics of Taiwan.
However, the book was not aimed at educating readers about history or telling a moral tale, Wu said.
“I just want readers to fall into the magic of the novel itself and if during the process they become interested in the history of Taiwan or the philology, that would be a bonus,” he said.
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