Taiwan: Books, Writers & Videos

Every Sunday on the local newspapers China Times (中國時報) in Taiwan, many readers are expecting the two pages reviews on books. In the year end, book columnists will announces their picks on “Books of the Year” (開卷好書獎), the best Chinese books published in Taiwan in that year. Since 2006, the newspaper also makes “Book Video” for awarded writers, representing their works in word, music and image.

This year 11 writers are invited to participate in the clips, including novelists, activists, and essayists. There writers share their views and perspectives towards their works, and what they want to reflect upon through words. Although the videos are all in Chinese, hopefully they can still convey and reproduce the atmosphere in their works. In the end of each clip, the voice over promises they are “Good books, and good to read”.

The following are some selected clips with my translation of the writers’ narration.

Plastic Opium

In Plastic Opium, the author Xia Chuan-Wei (夏傳位) reveals how credit cards and debit cards influence public perceptions, what unreasonable revolving interest rates are imposed to users, and what discriminations debtors face after falling into the credit card trap. In the clip, you can see the shopping districts in Taipei. He says in the clip:

[…]我想這個社會應該深一層地問,我們可以容許銀行業者賺錢到什麼樣的程度,都不用為他們所造成的社會後果負責;我們社會也應進一步思考,應該要建立一個什麼樣的標準,容許卡奴在負起他們自己的責任以後,重返這個社會,重新生活;我們更應該思考,怎麼樣督促政府,負起他應該負起的管制責任,這個社會要建立起一個什麼樣金融正義的標準,讓每一個人都擁有權利,能夠接觸到這個社會的金融資源,來發展他們自己的事業與生活。

[…] Our society should ask some deep questions: How much profit that banks can earn without being responsible for legacies and consequences? What standard should be raised to help debtors get back to the society and start a new life, after shouldering their duty? How should we urge the government to be accountable and place suitable regulations? How can we define “financial justice” so that everyone can access financial resources to develop their business and life.

Us

The author Gu Yu-Ling (顧玉玲) is a long-term activist for migrant worker rights. Us is a book recording stories of several Filipino migrant workers. Taiwan has introduced lots of migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, since 1990. In her own words in the clip:

[…]這本書如果對社會會有一點作用的話,我希望它像照鏡子一樣,讓我們看見彼此。我們使用抗爭,我們使用了歌舞表演,然後那個記者會或公聽會,我們用各種軟的硬的方式,其實不就是試著要跟這個社會對話嗎?[…]我一路書寫,我一直非常非常意識到讀者在哪裡,我希望人們看見,我希望人們知道這真的發生在台灣,就在我的左鄰右舍,我只是視而不見而已。[…]

[…] If this book can have any effects to the society, I hope it would serve like a mirror to help us see each other. We have tried to protest, to perform songs and dances, and to hold press and public hearings. With all these ways, soft and hard, we are just trying to foster a conversation to the society. […] I am always very aware of my readers when I write. I hope people can see. I hope people can understand that these stories really happen in Taiwan. Migrant workers are in our neighborhood, but many people pretend they do not exist.[…]

The End of River

As the first generation of Malaysian-Chinese writer in Taiwan, Li Yong-Ping (李永平) writes the novel with Borneo, Malaysia in mind, but lives in Taipei, Taiwan. He mentions:

我是一個小說家,小說家應該有個本事,能夠把兩個不同的空間結合在一起,你打開書房的窗子,你看到的是台灣的河流「淡水河」,你寫的是婆洲大河,可是在一個作家心靈裡頭,這兩條大河、這兩種風景,它就很奇妙地會產生一種互動,那個互動越來越強,結果這兩者就融合在一起,到了後來我幾乎分不清,我到底是寫婆羅洲大河,還是寫台灣的大河,我覺得這是寫作過程裡頭最美妙的一種經驗,這很難傳達出去,但是我相信敏感讀者在我的作品裡頭,應該可以看出這非常非常有趣的面貌。[…]

I am a novelist. Novelists should have the skill to combine two different spaces together. When I open the window in my study, I see Dan Shuei River in Taiwan, but I am writing the story about the river in Borneo. In a writer’s mind, the two rivers and the two scenes will miraculously interact. As it grows stronger, the two rivers merge together. In the end, it is so difficult to distinguish which river I am writing about. This is the most beautiful experience in writing, which is hard to be conveyed. I believe, however, sensitive readers will notice this very interesting situation.

To view all 11 clips, please visit YouTube page. To read notes from video production team, please visit OpenBook Blog [zh].

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