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“Ryu” by Akira Higashiyama

“Ryu” (meaning flow) was written by Akira Higashiyama, who was born in Taiwan and grew up in Japan. It was awarded with the Naoki Prize in 2015, one of the most coveted literary prizes in Japan. What I really liked about this novel is the way in which the complex Taiwanese history in relation to China’s mainland was masterfully interwoven with the plot of fiction.

The protagonist is Taiwanese and a high school student, growing up in Taipei. His grandfather fled China to Taiwan after the civil war in 1949. He had a complicated past where he killed a large number of people in his province. The story unfolds itself with the protagonist’s quest of who killed his grandfather. Reading this book could provide us with a refreshing and unique angle from which we can review the intricate Taiwanese history. As a mystery, it is also a page-turner.

What I found intriguing is the author’s usage of Chinese in the Japanese writing. In the text he writes some of the Chinese phrases with their meaning in Japanese adjacent to them. That is quite effective in reminding the readers of the setting and in a way liberates the boundary of Japanese. I really enjoyed reading this novel.

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