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