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“A Guide to Cultivating Well-Read Youth: A Taiwan Literary History Textbook”

If you ever have a chance to come to Taiwan, I highly recommend you go to National Museum of Taiwan Literature. The permanent exhibition there is fantastic with descriptions translated into English and Japanese. Through the exhibition, you can understand the history of Taiwanese literature.

National Museum of Taiwan Literature

One of the most representative Taiwanese writers would be Ye Shi-Tao (葉石濤). He wrote his early works in Japanese, which was the language through which he was educated. However, after World War II, he was forced to switch to Mandarin Chinese. He later wrote his works in Chinese after struggling to master the language for so many years. His life and experience in a way represent the complex history of Taiwanese literature. It’s almost unthinkable that your language is forcibly made to change as much as twice during only the span of 10 years. If the language forms the identity of its user, that of Taiwanese writers has been jolted by external forces. This guidebook includes all the main explanations of the exhibition.

One of the translators of this book (from Chinese to Japanese) is Ms. Hui-Zhen Xie, who is an associate professor of Wenzao University. She’s a specialist of Riichi Yokomitsu and devotes her career to researching both Japanese and Taiwanese literature. Luckily enough, I had a chance to have coffee with her in Kaohsiung. Her knowledge on Japanese literature was so profound as well as far-reaching. She explained that she had originally been drawn to the world of Japanese literature through essays of Haruki Murakami and that her life overlaps that of Riichi Yokomitsu.

Ms. hui-Zhen Xie

She has so far interpreted for Ryu Murakami and Yoko Tawada. She shared an interesting story with me. Ryu Murakami is known to write at a hotel in Shinjuku. Suddenly she received a request from him asking if he could change the appointment time to 17:42. At 17:42, she was ushered into his room, finding Ryu pointing towards a beautiful sunset together with Mt. Fuji. I was completely knocked out by this episode as I’m an avid reader of his. Having a conversation with her became one of the highlights of my Taiwan experience.

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