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 

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