Japan-based writer Li Kotomi (李琴峰) last week won the Akutagawa Prize, becoming the first Taiwanese to earn the Japanese literary award recognizing talented up-and-coming authors.
She on Friday last week received the award for her work An Island Where Red Spider Lilies Bloom, which was first published in the March edition of the Japanese literary magazine Bungakukai.
The novel, about a matriarchal society on a fictional island between Taiwan and Japan, poses questions about gender equality.
During her acceptance speech, Li said she owed her life to knowledge and literature, through which she has been able to deal with anger and pain.
Li said she hoped the award could become another miracle to help her continue her life, just like the main character in her award-winning novel, who escaped death because of a miracle.
The author, who was born in Taiwan in 1989 and moved to Japan to study in 2013, also said she hoped to publish several novels.
Li said she was grateful for her multicultural background, as the language and culture she grew up with in Taiwan and her experience living in Japan have “undoubtedly become the flesh and blood of my literary works.”
“Both Taiwan and Japan are important places to me,” she said.
Shuichi Yoshida, a former Akutagawa Prize winner and one of the panel committee members judging this year’s award, said he liked Taiwan a lot and felt honored to be able to evaluate Li’s works and see her win the prize.
Li has the gift of telling stories in different languages, creating a world of literature that is far bigger than he had imagined, Yoshida said, adding that he encourages Li to continue writing novels.
In April, Li became the first Taiwanese to be short-listed for Japan’s Mishima Yukio Prize for the novel.
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