A Flash of Recognition: How Go, Manga, and Stefan Zweig Cross Paths in THE LION IN THE MANGA LIBRARY
By Xiaodao ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
Dec 21, 2021

One intriguing aspect of the graphic novel is how it brings together two seemingly distant subjects: the strategy game go, and Taiwan’s manga rental industry. Can you share how you came up with this setting for your book?

I’m obsessed with the idea of rebellious acts, like “escaping from the world”, or “straying from the usual path”, so I decided the main character should be an “escapist”. I made her a professional go player since the game has been an interest of mine for many years. The decline of the manga rental shops makes them a setting that can evoke a lot of stories and memories, and they are just the sort of place an “escapist” would go to get away from the world.


How did you organize the materials gathered from your interviews and observations and apply them in the graphic novel? Can you use some concrete examples from the book to demonstrate?

The presentation of the basic information about go and the psychology of the game came from my personal experiences as a player in addition to what I learned from interviews with professional players and my observation of tournaments. The specific game layouts (used in the graphic novel) were taken from recorded professional games in Taiwan, and from the records of AlphaGo games.

For information about the world of manga rental shops I visited a platform called Zu Meng Wang (Dream Rental Net) where industry people gather, interviewed some shop owners, and did on-site observations of their workflow and working environment. All the details of the process of closing down a shop and the warehouse environment that appear in chapters four and five come straight from my memories of those visits.



The plot is mostly driven by the two main characters. Could you walk us through your process of developing these characters?

The model for Winter is Dr. B from Stefan Zweig’s novella The Royal Game. Dr. B developed his prodigious chess ability as a distraction while imprisoned by the Nazis, but when he exercises his abilities in an intense game, it nearly drives him mad. The source of Hsia-sheng’s character is the suffering and pain I’ve witnessed in people around me. He is a composite image of all victims of abuse, bearing witness to the intergenerational trauma, and the deep and seemingly irresolvable resentment that results.


Your graphic novel has go scenes drawn in the style of shonen manga (action comics targeted at teenage boys), the emotional content of shojo manga (sentimental manga targeted at teenage girls), and the real-world observation and detail of workplace manga. Taken together, it becomes hard to categorize. How would you define your work, or, how would you suggest that readers approach it?

My creative work always contains elements that are rearrangements of my own experience. But because I am limited by what I know, I also have to draw from others. This graphic novel grew out of the life experiences of quite a few different people, incorporating them into a collage of life-fragments. Within these somewhat arbitrary experiences, I hope that readers will feel a flash of recognition, a resonance of feeling that lingers even after they put the book down.



Read more:
- Xiaodao: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=367
- The Lion in the Manga Libraryhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=382