Solo Dance by Li Kokomi

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi

Taiwanese/Japanese lit

Original title – 独り舞, Hitorimai

Translator – Arthur Reiji Morris

Source – Review copy

Over the years World editions have sent me some wonderful books and this is the latest from them and it is a gem it is written by Li Kotomi a Taiwanese writer that lives in Japan she has written in both her native Mandarin and Japanese which she started to study when she was 15 and went to university in Japan to study and has lived there since this was her debut novel in Japanese . She is known for addressing LGBT issues in her fiction and has won a number of prize last year she was the first writer to win the Akutagawa prize(aOne of the largest Japanese book prizes previous winners include most of the best writers from Japan like Endo and Oe and more recently Sayaka Murata. The main Character in this book is also a Taiwanese woman living in Tokyo.

She was drawn to Danchen the moment she saw those eyes. Though she was to young to understand the meaning of eve in even its most basic sense, she knew that squirming, rolling wave of emotion in her chest was the same one felt between those fairy tale princes and princesses.

She spent her days watching Danchen but never managed to exchange a word with her.

To Young to see what this meant it haunts her still in her twenties this and other events in here years in Taiwan.

Cho has end up living in Japan and working in an Office but this Taiwanese woman has a number of events in her past that we find out as the book unfolds.She is just at them moment trying to blend in as she tries to hide her sexuality at work where the talk is all of marriage and kids, She is a woman that is walking a tightrope and is always looking into the abyss of death as we she what in her previous life made her leave her life in Tawian. To set up a new life in Japan a loss in her past of a girl she loved a girl she never told how she felt. which we see the after math of this event  in the middle of the book where the book shifts from the observance of her life to her inner most thoughts and diary of the time and the event that lead to her going to Japan the loss of a close friend that she was in love with. this and another event which locks her off just as she should bloom as she goes to university This is a book that has many threads office life trying to be yourself in a world where people are expected to conform. A look at grief , mental health and how death can lie round every corner.  It is about trying to escape but do we every really escape what has happened in our Past ?

Her solitary nature made a lot of the fellow students on her course uncomfortable around her. Unlike most of her classmates, she had been studying Japanese since Junior high school and had already progressed to reading a lot of Japanese literature in the original, making her top of the class. This only served to worsen her solitude. Tachung Girl’s Senior High School was prestigious, and so a lot of its students went on to study at National Taiwan University, which meant that news of the assault a few months ago had spread among the students in her degree course.

We what has happened  to Cho sets her apart that event just before University

The turning point as Javier Cercas put in his essay collection The blind spot he says a lot of great books have that point from has with the whale for ahab our waiting for Godot there is that event never seen that is the turning point here it is the death of a girl Danchen the aftermath of which with another even more horrific event  is the whole kernel of the book and how Cho ended up as the Cho we meet. But it is a look at grief unspoken grief. The pressure of hiding ones sexuality and also a novel about growing up it packs a punch in its 250 pages as we wind up this year booker international maybe I have read the first book from next years list ? I was also remind of the main event in this book the loss of the girl she was in love with at a young age is a similar story to that we find in Tarjei Vesaas The ice palace where we see a girl coping with the loss of a friend she was in love with. For me the book is like the Art piece Shedboatshed (where a shed was made into a boat then back to a shed ) The image of a person taken apart as this even has done and then like in the piece sailed across the water and then rebuilt on the other side not quite the shed to was !! this is about how we can never quite come back to what we were when that event happens like the death in this book it is always there ! Have you read this book or any other book set in Japan by a writer not from Japan ?

Winstons score – -A a book that sees how grief and hiding our true selves can eat us up !

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

 

Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

Taiwanese fiction

Original title –  山豬.飛鼠.撒可努

Translator – Daryl Sterk

Source – review copy

This book won the 2000  wung Yung-fu literature prize. The book originally came out two years earlier and was later made into a film called the sage hunter. Sakinu himself grew up in Pawian village as part of the indigenous tribe of Pawian people. He grew up to first be a police officer and then later he became a forest ranger. He then later formed his own hunter school to pass on the traditional hunting skills of the Pawian people he learned. This book is a series of short stories that form the early life of a fictionalized version of the writer himself.

Alas, the last time I heard the flying squirrels sing the song of the squirrel love was when I  was in secondary school. I didn’t immediately notice when they stopped, or rather when they failed to sing one spring, perhaps because I had never fallen in love myself, either with a girl or with the ,ountain forest. But I knew someone who had not only fallen in lovr but had a lover’s intimate knowledge of objectof his love.

“Hey dad!” What happened to the flying squirrels ?” I asked him one day “Where have they all gone ?”

The loss of squirrels is a showing of the changing enviroment in Sakinu’s world

As I said this is a collection of stories that start when the fictional version of Sakinu was growing up and is taught by his father the hunting techniques of his forefathers. The first two chapters are about Flying squirrels and Wild boar both staples of the tribe. But what is noted by the young Sakinu is the loss of flying squirrels from his younger days when they could be seen in the village to now they have to find them and then they are hard to catch than they use to be. A story of the local monkeys and the observance of when the King monkey of the tribe that lives by them dies and leads to a power vacuum that they see cause a fight as other tribes fight to gain ground and become kings themselves almost human-like the way he told it then we see the importance of Millet and his grandparents that both had field growing this crop that forms tha backbone of what they eat. Then as he ages and the rites of passage drinking then the later parts of the book see the adult looking at his world that is changing as the Han Chinese have shrunk the lands of his people and he has also seen the young of his tribe lose skills. They have to leave to Taipei or to the sea to get by and their own histroy is slipping. The last part sees him marrying his father is there his father is the harsh man but one that is a connection to the past here.

My Maternal Grandfather and grandmother have always loved to sing. They like to drink fresh national milk, Mr. Brown coffee, and millet wine. Sometimes they ask me to go to the corner shop to buy them thousand-year-old eggs to go with the wine. When they are a bit drunk, they start to sing love songs, both Paiwanese songs, and Old Japanese song. Sometimes they even throw in an old Taiwanese song.

His family keep there history alive

This is an ode to a tribe of indigenous people that I knew little about they have a language that is related to the pacific tongues of other indigenous tribes of the Pacific. Sakinu is trying to keep his tribe alive and here in this collection of stories he has a wonderfully evocative world that has a connection to a lost past in many places from the image if his father wrestling with creatures in wellys and not much more. He weaves a world that even in his lifetime is shrinking even more this is a book of his people and an important work. I’m not sure there are many other works around his people available in English. It evokes the past lost community the passing of knowledge from father to son those traditions to survive that have been lost to most of the world. One man’s life captures a world that it’s shrinking. Fair to say I loved this book this is what I read books in translation for those couple of times a year discoveries that set me as a reader alight. Another gem from Honford star that has been bringing us some great Asian fiction.

The man with the compound eyes by Wu Ming-Yi

man with the compound eyes

The man with the compound eyes by Wu Ming-YI

Taiwanese fiction

Translator – Darreyl Sterk

Original title –   複眼人

Source Review copy

I was pleased to get this as I’ve not read a book from Taiwan before so always love finding out about new cultures and writers .Wu Ming-Yi is a writer and artist ,he studied Marketing and Chinese literature at university .He has written both fiction and non fiction titles ,he has written a number of non fiction titles on butterflies .This is his first Novel to be translated to English.

The people of Wayo Wayo thought the whole world was but a single island .The island situated in the midst of an immense ocean , far from any continent .As far as island memory reached ,the white man had once visited the island ,but nobody had ever left and brought back news of another land .

Atile’i island home is very isolated .

Now I am not a big reader of speculative fiction ,so the style of this book was unusual to me .It is set in a near future as a toxic disaster ,caused by to much rubbish has lead to strange occurrences in the oceans of the world  has hit the worlds oceans .In Taiwan Alice ,she is a professor has recently lost not just her husband but also her son .Finds a man who has been brought in on the tide of rubbish and junk that arrive on the seafront by her house .This man is Atile’i he has just come of age in his culture turned 15 and was as the second son of his family ,he has to leave his island home of Wayo Wayo  and has wound up in Taiwan .These two then set out to become friends struggling to get to know one another at the start but slowly getting there .Atile’i sets out with Alice to follow what happened to her husband and her son by following a trail on a mountain they took  her husband had taken before he died .

Alice wanted to grieve for the victims but couldn’t feel anything .Over the last ten years ,there had been more and more earthquakes and floods .

Alice had seen a lot through her eyes and in her life .

This book is quite unique Wu Ming-Yi has a  unusual voice ,this book at its heart is a plea to us all to take better care of our planet .I read a piece about how it came to us in English because his publicist really pushed it and a book mentioned that was similar to it was Life of pi and I loved life of pi ,yes this book has that unreal world feel Atie’i feels like he is from another place his ,a different culture he had to leave his island as a sacrifice to the sea good ,but as the strongest of his friends in sailing and swimming just managed to survive .He remind me in a lot of ways of Pi from life of Pi .Alice was a women in despair when she found him ,This is so much a story about love ,loss not just in a personnel sense but also on a global scale ,the disaster that features in the book ,is a warning to us all .I was also reminded of footage of rubbish from the tsunami that has been up around the pacific actually shows how interconnect we all are  .Also music plays a part although they struggle to get along the two are drawn together over time by music .A  must read for readers that like something of different from the usual European fiction .I must admit the cover is also my favourite cover of 2013 

September 2022
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: