Taiwanese novelist Kevin Chen (陳思宏) has expanded his tour of the US to promote his novel Ghost Town (鬼地方) after receiving an enthusiastic response at the first few events.
In conjunction with the release of the hardback version of his novel in English on Oct. 25, Chen was invited by the Taipei Culture Center in New York to speak at four promotional events in the city and in Washington.
“I didn’t expect there to be such a crowd, honestly, because I am pretty much a nobody in the US,” the Berlin-based writer said in an interview.
Photo courtesy of the Taipei Cultural Center in New York via CNA
After the first four events at public libraries and universities, Chen said that he decided to meet with fans at similar venues, where there was also a good turnout.
He said that during the 10-day promotional tour he did not speak about the book’s plot, but rather about the research he had done for the story, including the places he had visited.
“I didn’t want to tell them what Ghost Town is about,” Chen said. “I think they should experience it by reading it themselves.”
First published in Mandarin in 2019, Ghost Town was translated into English by Darryl Sterk and published in paperback by Europa Editions in August. The following month, it was included in the New York Times list of “33 Works of Fiction and Poetry Coming This Fall.”
The novel tells the story of a young gay man named Keith Chen who moves from Taiwan to Berlin, leaving behind his family in a small rural village.
Readers who are familiar with Chen’s own story have said the book seems semi-autobiographical, while reviewers have described the narrative as “nonlinear,” “magical” and filled with “haunted” voices.
Readers might also find echoes of the 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which features a fictional town called Macondo, some reviewers have said.
However, Chen said that Ghost Town is more like a dinner scene with a big traditional Taiwanese family, where the voices and reminiscences are overlapping and discordant, as everyone is trying to say something.
“What I intended to do was to give everyone their own chapter and let them speak. The reader has to eat up the meal — that is, to finish the reading — so as to puzzle out the whole picture,” Chen said.
He added that his primary goal was to create a fun read.
With Ghost Town now translated into eight languages, it is reaching a broader spectrum of readers, Chen said, adding that he is not worried about negative reviews; instead, he is honored that his work is being widely discussed and interpreted.
Born in Changhua County’s Yongjing Township (永靖) in 1976, Chen has written four novels, three short story collections and three collections of prose.
Ghost Town, his second novel, won the Golden Tripod Award and the Taiwan Literature Award in 2020.
Its translation into English was subsidized by the Ministry of Culture, under its Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation.
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