Dec 22, 2021 / By Jim Weldon

    Hsu Chen-Fu’s first full-length work, Taming the Blue Sheep, is a tapestry woven of travelog with fiction embroidered with natural and human history, ethnography and reportage that shows us Tibet past and present, and lives lived on its high grasslands, both human and animal. A meditative traveler in the vein of Bruce Chatwin, Hsu’s prose narrative rises to become a wider inquiry into the relationship between Man and Nature even as it goes down deep into particular places and people, while his fiction brings alive the human detail of Tibetan lives under Chinese rule and the sweep of the tumult of change since 1949.

    Ostensibly a diary of the author’s several trips to the Tibetan Plateau in a quest to see the fabled snow leopard, we are soon introduced to the multiple narratives that will be employed in the form of an earlier traveler’s diary Hsu “translates” in excerpt. It is that of a fictional Japanese scholar of religion who comes to Tibet in the 1940s and stays to bear witness to “peaceful liberation”, the flight of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan uprising and Red Guard faction fighting on the streets of Lhasa. Hsu’s own journal begins with his journey to and residence at a research station where the search for the leopard reveals only tantalizing traces and second-hand accounts; here, the very high plateau itself perhaps features larger than the elusive big cat. We follow Hsu on visits to Lhasa and its wealth of monasteries and palaces, or idle time away waiting in Xining for the next excursion back to the grasslands. One such begins as an ill-fated car trip into the deepest parts of the plateau but ends with him spending the Tibetan New Year with the family of the shepherd who rescues him from breakdown in a snowstorm. He joins village youth returned from city jobs to scale a sacred mountain and light a New Year fire, then stays on to try his hand at shepherd’s work and investigate the cause of a mystery disease plaguing local flocks. We experience Hsu’s frustrations at the numerous official barriers a foreign traveler encounters off the tourist trail in Tibet and his delight and interest in those locals he does get to meet. Some of these latter feature as protagonists in their own fictional expansions from the main text, such as the ageing Tibetan opera master navigating personal loyalty to his art, faith and patrimony with performative gratitude to the modernizing state, as we share his first encounter with motion pictures both as audience and subject. Hsu’s journeys have met with numerous setbacks and end when he is expeled from his shepherd host’s village by the police; he decides it is time to return to Taiwan, yet to encounter a snow leopard in the wild. He does see a captive specimen in Xining Zoo on the morning of his flight home, underscoring our realization that it is always the quest that matters most.

    Hsu Chen-Fu is already well-known as an award-winning essayist and writer and the maturity of his craft is in evidence here, seamlessly blending the various narrative formats. The writing is tight with no longueurs, capable of expansive explication when the topic is natural science or subtle suggestion in the internal monologue of a fictional protagonist. The diversity of the content might easily descend into a mere ragbag of disparate parts but the strong authorial voice and sustained themes never leave this book feeling less than a whole. Hsu has a background in the sciences and his discussions of environmental themes benefit from this solid grounding but he is clearly also a gifted fiction writer and excels in that format too – his characters feel real and his descriptive writing is unforced. Better still, he is a good traveling companion not averse to humor when appropriate.

    The book includes an afterword by Wu Ming-Yi, author of The Man with the Compound Eyes, who we learn has known Hsu from the latter’s youth, always expecting great things from the younger writer. In Taming the Blue Sheep we see Wu’s judgement was not misplaced, this linked medley of fine writing addresses compelling themes for our times, bears witness to history, celebrates a culture, and takes us among people and places dear to the author’s heart in a style that keeps us constantly engaged.



    Read more:
    - Hsu Chen-Fu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=375
    - Taming the Blue Sheepnhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=412

  • Book Report: THE PIANO TUNER
    Dec 22, 2021 / By Sylvia Lichun Lin

    A musical genius turned piano tuner, a self-made wealthy businessman, and his young pianist wife are brought together by a piano that refuses to be tuned. Does the tuner fail at his job? Are the pianist’s ears playing a trick on her? Or is the piano off-key because the marriage is in trouble? When promises are broken and trust betrayed, where does one find a tuner to restore the timbre of life?

    The Piano Tuner, a novel by award-winning Taiwanese writer, Kuo Chiang-Sheng, is narrated by the eponymous title character, a one-time child prodigy whose potential earned him free music lessons and scorn from his peers and his own family. His father does not understand music and his classmates bully him – no macho boys play a sissy instrument like the piano. He would have given up if not for his persistent elementary school teacher, who finds him tutors and pays for his lessons. When one of her former students, now a renowned concert pianist returns to Taiwan for a brief stay, she arranges for the narrator to study with the pianist, who one day suggests a four-hand piano recital with the narrator. Growing up with inadequate love and few positive experiences, the narrator is overwhelmed by the attention, but an invitation extended too easily should never be taken seriously, he quickly learns. The pianist’s lover arrives in Taiwan and together they perform the four-hand piano piece. Feeling betrayed, the piano tuner leaves a deep scratch on the surface of the pianist’s expensive piano before storming out; he quits the lessons and turns to the more anonymous refuge of tuning pianos.

    Mr. Lin, the wealthy businessman, meets his wife, Emily, during a dinner with business associates at a restaurant that offers post-meal whisky tasting, accompanied by live, classical music. One of the dinner guests asks Emily to drink with them, a crass request that is out of line for a refined place, but which is finessed by the manager. And so they meet. Eventually they marry, and Lin begins to learn about classical music, attending concerts and later planning a recital for Emily. Then he helps her open a music studio that offers lessons. She later dies of cancer, leaving a roomful of pianos, and the Steinway he bought for her at home.                    

    Grief-stricken Lin must decide what to do with the pianos. In the meantime, the tuner continues to maintain the instruments in the studio and at Lin’s house. In one of his trips to the house, he reveals to Lin that Emily was never happy with how the Steinway sounded, to Lin’s great surprise. Why had she never told him? What else had she concealed from him? The tuner knows; she was in love with someone else, a former student. Being privy to the secret lets the narrator feel that he’s leveled the uneven relationship between Lin and him.

    The two men, with their disparate relationships with Emily, decide to form a quasi-partnership to sell second-hand pianos. In addition to those currently housed in the studio, they need more inventory, which takes them on a buying trip to New York. While in Manhattan, Emily’s former student/lover happens to show up at the same restaurant. Oblivious to the affair, Lin is happy to see someone who once knew his wife, while the narrator is put off by the younger man’s insincerity and forced pleasantries during the brief encounter. Without knowing it, the narrator is on the precipice of a downward spiral.

    As snow falls in New York, the narrator continues to slip into a mental state similar to the snow-blanketed world outside his hotel room. The two men drive to the outskirts of New York to visit a piano grave yard, where used pianos are either repaired, cannibalized, or turned into firewood to heat the massive space. In a semi-delirious state, the narrator picks up a hammer and smashes a piano waiting to be restored, a display of his mental decline. Lin has second thoughts about the joint venture and decides to spend time with his son in the city, sending the piano tuner home alone. Another promise broken.

    The novel ends with the narrator traveling to Moscow to visit the former residence of Sviatoslav Richter, a Soviet pianist whose 18th piano sonata informs many of the relationships in the second half of the novel, and whose life sheds lights on the narrator, a piano tuner, and a metaphorical broken piano.

    The Piano Tuner is an exploration of unfulfilled dreams and unkept pledges and their consequences, as well as a meditation on life, love, and friendship. Kuo writes in unadorned and yet elegant Chinese, which is beautifully rendered by an award-winning translating team.



    Read more:
    - Kuo Chiang-Sheng: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=374
    - The Piano Tunerhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=411

  • Book Report: BECOMING BUNUN
    Dec 22, 2021 / By May Huang

    Becoming Bunun is a coming-of-age story by acclaimed Taiwanese novelist Kan Yao-Ming, widely regarded as the pioneer of neo-nativist Taiwanese literature. Set in the aftermath of World War II, Becoming Bunun revolves around Halmut, a young man from the Bunun tribe, whose dream of playing professional baseball with his childhood friend Hainunan is dashed when the latter is killed during an American air raid (the two boys are more than just friends, though their forbidden and unrequited love ends in tragedy). The book is heavily inspired by the Sancha Mountain Incident of September 1945 – during which an American bomber carrying newly-liberated prisoners of war crashed into Hualien County. In Kan’s fictional retelling of the incident, Halmut is part of the rescue team that searches the mountain for survivors. While doing so, he finds an American pilot alive but hesitates to save his life, still grieving Hainunan’s death at the hands of American troops. The moral quandary Halmut confronts and ultimately resolves is part of what makes Becoming Bunun a classic bildungsroman, a journey of self-discovery and personal reckoning.  

    The novel takes its name from the Bunun language (the original title “minBunun” means “to be a Bunun”), which feels particularly fitting as Kan draws from Bunun heritage and culture throughout. The folklore and rich, mythological imagery Kan weaves throughout the story inform our reading of the text, deepening the novel’s exploration of man’s relationship with nature and Indigenous beliefs. Kan is a writer known for his historical fiction, and Becoming Bunun is no exception; throughout the book, he turns his attention to Taiwanese history and the real lived experiences of Taiwanese people, outlining the local tensions during and after the Japanese occupation, the challenges of healing from post-war trauma, and the barriers queer folks faced during a time when same-sex relationships were stigmatized – Halmut and Hainuan’s short-lived and unreconciled relationship is tender though ill-fated, extending the magnitude of Halmut’s grief.

    By creating space to explore Taiwanese history and its kaleidoscope of different identities, Becoming Bunun also amplifies the stories of Taiwanese residents during and after World War II, giving voice to narratives that may have been sidelined in the global theater of operations. Every character, no matter how minor, is brought to life with vivid detail – from the  powerful hundred-step snake river, personified through Kan’s imagination in a way that makes Taiwan’s topology itself a core part of the story; to the sambar deer he encounters at a cathartic moment towards the end of the novel, which he believes to be the “Deer King” from Bunun legend; to the clouded leopard he sees as himself in a dream, an instance of the importance that Bunun culture places on divining the future through dream interpretation.  

    Becoming Bunun is many stories within a single novel, as Kan brings different genres (historical fiction, bildungsroman, poetry, elegy) and even languages (Bunun, Chinese, Japanese, English) together to tell a broader story about love, mourning, and self-understanding. Suffused with suspense, heartbreak, and loss, Becoming Bunun is a window into a lesser-known chapter of Taiwanese history, intertwined as it is with deadliest and most destructive war to ever take place. Rooted in Bunun culture yet universal in its exploration of grief and desire, Becoming Bunun is a timely reminder that diverse traditions and beliefs are worth protecting; and a powerful testament to the way storytelling allows the people we care about to live on in personal and collective memory. 



    Read more:
    - Kan Yao-Ming: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=49
    - Becoming Bunun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=410

  • A TRIP TO THE ASYLUM’s Cycle of Trauma
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Jean Chen ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    (This article is a condensed version of one originally published at Fountain.org.tw.: https://www.fountain.org.tw/tag/mind/article/a-trip-to-asylum-by-pam-pam-liu)

    A Trip to the Asylum is the first full-length graphic novel from artist Pam Pam. It is her attempt to explain reality through fictional characters. The idea for the story had been percolating in her mind over ten years of working on original comics, during which she built up her confidence that she could do this story justice in graphic novel form. The seed of the graphic novel consisted of a single sentence: “The whole world is your asylum.”

    Pam Pam relates, “Sometimes I feel that all of the so-called ‘normal’ people who get societal recognition are actually far more messed-up than those who get labeled with a diagnosis, to the point that the ‘normal’ people are actually the source of other peoples’ mental illnesses.” Told in 15 chapters/336 pages, the story begins when a little girl’s uncle enters a psychiatric care facility for treatment, and ends when he finally leaves. The man who has undergone “treatment” at the facility emerges as someone who still looks like her uncle, but also doesn’t seem like her uncle anymore.



    During his “trip to the asylum” the uncle encounters a diverse cast of characters. Number One has an overblown self-image, Little Yu is kind and definitely crazy, and long-haired, sweetly charming Ting-ting is hiding a big secret, but in each of them we also recognize ourselves, each wound-laden heart wrapped in layer upon layer of memory. As expected, Pam Pam skillfully laces these harsh realities with offbeat humor, helping readers understand the ways we are all shaped by childhood trauma.

    A reading of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma provided both the needed knowledge-base and motivation to complete this graphic novel. The little girl witnesses the way her uncle turned violent whenever things didn’t go his way. But does that mean she will repeat the same pattern of violence in some future moment when she is pushed to the breaking point? Our psychological traumas are remembered in the body and childhood wounds remain embedded in the psyche.



    At what point does the heart turn cold? When does it become overburdened with the scars it bears? A Trip to the Asylum dispenses with preaching, instead patiently unveiling the inner world of the so-called “insane” through humorous stories and wry observations of their inter-personal interactions. Along the way we are forced to question, are those who appear normal truly normal? In a world where violence begets violence, none of us can avoid trauma, nor can we avoid passing that hurt on to others. So, in the end, what standard is there to judge who is sane, and who is not?



    Read more:
    - Pam Pam Liu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=344
    - A Trip to the Asylum: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=389

  • “Writing our Wounds” in HOSTEL OF LOST FUNCTION
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Gami ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    In April of 2016, I lost my mother quite unexpectedly. Immediately, I understood that heartache is not just some abstract description. It can take on many forms: a physiological pain, a violent headache, nausea, vertigo, a knot of tension in the chest. Even when I thought I was too exhausted to cry any more, the tears would start flowing again.

    Because of this calamity, my older brother and I moved out of the house we had shared with our mother, and into a rooftop addition in Taipei. After we settled in, life and work returned to normal, though from time to time I would be seized by a kind of panic. I wondered exactly what this feeling was. Perhaps most of you have had the experience of staying in a dormitory or youth hostel. You might thoroughly enjoy the experience, but the moment you return home a knot of tension releases. The tension and panic I felt was like that – like always living away from home. When I realized this, the phrase “Hostel of Lost Function” suddenly appeared in my mind.



    “That place where you stayed for so long – where you thought you would live forever – that is the Hostel of Lost Function.”

    At first I felt uneasy and confused. “Hostel of Lost Function” sounds so negative. How could I associate it with someone I loved so deeply? Though I continued to work on a number of other creative projects, Hostel of Lost Function stayed lodged in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In 2018, while studying illustration in London, I decided to start working on the story. The pictures become my language for re-establishing communication with the outside world. With pencil and engravings I recorded the feelings that my stilted tongue had never been able to speak. After reading the storyboards for Hostel of Lost Function at a mid-term evaluation, some of my classmates began to cry, and when I saw their tears, I cried as well. I felt understood. I realized that writing our wounds has the power to heal others as well.

    Later, in 2021, as I sat in a meeting, listening as the publication of the book was discussed, my thoughts drifted away to the mountaintop where my mother’s ashes are buried beneath a tree. Now, I could finally take the book to the mountaintop and read it to her. “You see? You’re haven’t disappeared. You will always be here in this story.” Now, I can finally tell everyone, “This is the house I’ve been building for so long. It’s called Hostel of Lost Function.” There’s nothing complex about the structure, but my feelings for it are complicated. I’m afraid certain parts were not well made, and won’t hold as much love that they might have. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to build it as it really ought to be, because it is so much better than anything that can be conveyed by words and pictures. I’m afraid people will be disappointed (or perhaps I am the one who will always be most disappointed). But I have built it. Hostel of Lost Function exists for all to see.

    “This strung-together form with no means to express, like a heart with no fixed residence, always living outside and unable to sleep, can finally have a bit of rest.” This is what the Hostel of Lost Function says to me.



    Read more:
    - Gami: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=373
    - Hostel of Lost Function: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=388

  • Where Fantasy Meets Reality: Artist Ticker on Sketching a Supernatural History of Taiwan
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Ticker ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Before I began working on this graphic novel about Taiwan’s supernatural creatures I knew as little about the subject as most readers. My knowledge was limited to the few ghost stories that everyone has heard. As I delved deeper, I came to understand that these supernatural creatures are intimately connected to our people and our land. They are reflections of the complexities of human life. Sometimes they act as warnings. Sometimes they represent forces in society or the natural world. More importantly, these creatures are not bound by ordinary human ethics. Wild and mysterious by turns, I am deeply drawn to these entities at the hinterlands of reality that embody so many imaginative possibilities.

    “The Servant Girl’s Cat” was the first story I completed. In it, a cat who died defending her master’s virtue is reborn as a supernatural creature. When she witnesses Hsiao Chun, a girl working as a maid, being assaulted she begins to realize that though the world may never change, she must still do what she can to avenge the honor of these mistreated women.



    Iakoo was once a little girl who died of abuse at the hands of her sister-in-law. In death, she becomes a god who protects unwed boys and girls. In the graphic novel, Iakoo appears as a little girl who loves to laugh and play, the very joys she was denied in her short, tragic life. This interpretation mirrors the situation of Kuei-mei, a young girl who seeks Iakoo’s help.

    The depiction of women in these stories contrasts strongly with the unfettered nature of the supernatural creatures. Whether it is the suffering Kuei-mei endures due to misogyny, or Hsiao Chun’s attempts at self-determination, or Su’s pursuit of freedom, all of these characters cling to what hope they can muster, despite the cruel hand fate has dealt them. Aside from the stories of these supernatural entities, this is what I most wanted to share with my readers – a window onto earlier times. There’s Wang Ching, who sells roasted wheat mush to support his family. There’s Inspector Li, caught between his personal and professional obligations. There’s Ming-tu, pining for his older brother.



    Through the vicissitudes of life, all of them are seeking some form of peace and contentment. Those times may have passed, but the striving and longing of these characters will elicit familiar resonances for contemporary readers. If even one of these stories or characters, or even one image, stays lodged in the readers mind, impossible to forget, then it was all worth it. This is my small hope now that these stories are complete.



    Read more:
    - Ticker: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=372
    The Sister of the Bamboo Stool and Other Tales of the Supernatural: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=387

  • Drawing Inspiration from the Afterlife: an Interview with NETHERWARRANT Creator Yuzu
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Yuzu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    What was the source of inspiration for the story? Why did you decide to use King Yama and the Netherworld as source materials?

    When I was a kid I read a martial arts novel that had a kung fu move called “King Yama’s Travel Permit”. It was probably meant to make the move sound particularly devastating, as if it would send you straight to the Netherworld to see King Yama. The phrase left a strong impression, and I started thinking how interesting it would be if there really was a document that permitted one to travel to the Netherworld. Once the idea of the “Netherwarrant” was settled, I threw in a few characters, a few messed up things that happened to me, and a bunch of my personal gripes about life, and that’s the story.



    The gods that figure most prominently in the graphic novel are Black and White Impermanence. Why did you choose to focus on these two characters? Are there any thoughts you can share about the process of designing the characters?

    In folk tales, Black and White Impermanence are gods. One is short, the other tall. One is black, the other white. Selecting them to be main characters meant that the images in the graphic novel would be quite varied. In order to make the graphic novel more appealing, I depicted White Impermanence as a tall, beautiful woman, and Black Impermanence as a small boy. If I had drawn them as they appear in folktales, with the whole plot revolving around their quest to find King Yama, it might have seemed too pretentious. On the other hand, if I had modernized their appearance, the otherness of these folk gods would have been lost.

    After a lot of fretting I finally decided to preserve their color schemes, but otherwise simplify their appearances. For example, White Impermanence should hold a fan of feathers, but a simple folded fan was easier to draw. Black Impermanence should have a black veil over his face, but a mask of white cloth was easier to draw. And White Impermanence should have white hair, but black hair is easier to draw, so once again I took the easy way out.


    The second supernatural incident in the graphic novel takes place in an easily recognizable real-world setting. Was there some real life incident that formed the basis of the story? Are there any other backgrounds in the book drawn from actual places?

    There was no incident on which the story was based. Because the main character is so burdened by high expectations, she can never settle for anything less than perfection. I imagine other people would see this kind of character as leading a charmed life, so when it came time to draw her university, naturally I chose the prestigious National Taiwan University as the backdrop. Other real-world places that made it into the graphic novel are Taipei Main Station, the shopping district around Taiwan Normal University, and a nightlife district in Banqiao.



    You mentioned that you used an ink brush while working on the graphic novel. What’s the difference between working with an ink brush and more conventional art tools? Is there anything interesting you can share about the ink brush?

    The tip of an ink brush is quite soft so at first I had to work hard at controlling it to produce the desired line thickness. But once I got used to it, I found that I could produce any thickness of line I wanted using one tool. That makes it very convenient. Also, I no longer have to keep all this pointy dip pens on my table, which has greatly reduced the number of accidental jabs I receive in the name of art. The downside is ink brush painting doesn’t suit every kind of subject matter, and it is hard to find assistants who can use an ink brush. So in the end, using an ink brush increases my workload.



    Read more:
    - Yuzu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=271
    - Netherwarranthttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=386

  • Novel, Graphic Novel, and Animated Feature: the Creators of THE EYE OF SARUTAHIKO on the Process of Adaptation
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Han Tsai-Chun & Chao Ta-Wei ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    What were your first impressions of Chang Kuo-Li’s novel, the novel from which the graphic novel is adapted? What left the deepest impression? Why did it move you?

    Chao: I’ve always read Chang Kuo-Li’s novels. When I read The Eye of Sarutahiko in 2018, I loved it because it has Chang Kuo-Li’s warmth and humor. I also identified with the values in the novel. The main character, Hui-sheng, would be considered a loser by most people. But he never gives up. He’s always working to change his life, which creates all kinds of possibilities. Not miraculous changes, but more like the aspiration to create something beautiful. I also like Chang Kuo-Li’s environmental views. He’s concerned about the environment, but he’s not focused on blame.

    Han: I like the gentle tone of the novel. Like the way Hui-sheng is always concerned about the people around him. He doesn’t express his concern as criticism. Instead he works to improve himself and others.


    What made you want to create an animated film and graphic novel based on the novel?

    Chao: I had images appearing in my mind the whole time I was reading the novel. As a director of animated films, I really wanted to see what these characters and settings would look like if they could move. Especially the scenes of the submarine restoration. Another thing is the way the stage of the story is filled with all these props and backdrops familiar to Taiwanese people. This is the kind of story I like to bring to life, so I decided to speak with the author about the rights for graphic novel and film adaptations.

    Han: I wanted to see the characters interact with one another. (The story) brought back memories of my youth.



    What attracted you to the various characters?

    Chao: We both liked Li Wang. There is a lot of the author in him. Witty, honest, broad minded, and a bit mysterious. He’s rough around the edges, but also sharp and meticulous. He supports the kids, but at his own pace, and in his own way. He’s this magical character who is directing things behind the scenes. The character design for Li Wang contains a lot of my feelings from my first meeting with Chang Kuo-Li.

    Hui-sheng has the most depth in the novel. Our emotional journey follows him, and we care about him the most.

    Han: Because Hui-sheng cares about his friends, we, in turn, care about him.


    The plot and characters are altered a bit in the graphic novel. Why is that?

    Chao, Han: The Hui-sheng of the novel is a bit simple-minded and naïve. Hui-sheng in the graphic novel thinks more about things, which makes him feel a bit older. Also, we made Hsiao Lai a tomboy to help with gender balance.

    As for the length, we end the graphic novel when the submarine is discovered, but we also quickened the pace so that most of the story takes place in Laomei. If we were to complete the story it would take three more graphic novels!



    An animated film adaptation is also in the works. What is the relationship to the graphic novel?

    Chao, Han: Animation and comics are two different mediums. The pacing is different, but the atmosphere and feel of the characters are the same. We hope that readers of the graphic novel will be eager to see the movie. We also hope that we will have the opportunity to do three more graphic novels!



    Read more:
    - Han Tsai-Chun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=370
    - Chao Ta-Wei: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=371
    - Chang Kuo-Li: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=20
    - The Eye of Sarutahikohttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=385

  • The Days of Childhood
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Sung Hsin-yin ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Before producing the film On Happiness Road, my original intent was to make a Taiwanese version of Chibi Maruko-chan. After so many years of watching Japanese anime, it was inevitable that as a director I would want to make something for my fellow Taiwanese to watch.

    The 1980’s society was still in the closing years of martial law, but there was a wonderful feeling in the air. Things were simpler. If I had taken these everyday tales from the life of eternal first-grader Lin Shu-chi, with all their absurdity and wonder, and turned them into animated shorts, I’m sure the results would have been fantastic. At the time I wrote out the stories, I couldn’t help but be moved, or even laugh out loud when I read them. I was so pleased with myself, I even imagined that these animated shorts would outdo Chibi Maruko-chan.

    However, for a variety of reasons, I later decided to produce a full-length feature. I wrote the script from the perspective of the adult Lin Shu-chi. The stories of her childhood were all there, but when told from the perspective of an adult, these childhood memories inevitably became more sentimental.

    Later, the film toured the world, won various prizes, and received good reviews from a number of critics. I should have felt deeply satisfied and continued on with my life. But what a shame it would be to abandon those short stories that were still sitting on my hard drive! I wanted the world to see these little treasures. Thus, my mind got working on the idea of turning them into a graphic novel. After talking to a few artists I hired Lo He. The reason for my choice was simple. Just as I had throughout the entire process of making the movie, I followed my gut, and my gut believed Lo He was the best person for the job.



    In the end, my gut was right. Despite being twenty years my junior, Lo He’s handling of a story that took place before she was born was pitch perfect. She produced an outstanding work. Her layouts have verve, and her art brings out the absurdity and silliness of Lin Shu-chi’s school days. Being the first reader of this comic universe, I often laughed out loud while reviewing the drafts on my computer screen. Passing by, my husband would ask, “Are you all right?” I’m proud of the graphic novel now that it is finished, but there is also a sense of sadness. What will I do now that there are no new drafts to chortle over?

    Our childhood memories are a kind of eternal homesickness. I wasn’t particularly happy as a little girl, and I sought comfort by immersing myself in manga, movies, and TV shows. Now that I’m an adult, Taiwan is a radically different place, and I’ve become someone who tells stories for a living. Looking back on my childhood, an era of absurdities, of tragicomedies shaped by history, all I see are these wonderful stories everywhere. Recently it has become popular to say, “I laughed until I cried, then cried until I laughed.” To me, a good story has to play things up in this way. As a creator of stories, this is what I hope to deliver to my audience.

    I hope that readers of On Happiness Road will find that their laughter touched with tears, and their tears touched with love.



    Read more:
    - Sung Hsin-yin: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=369
    - Lo He: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=368
    - On Happiness Roadhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=384