Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Cli-Fi Review from Danny Bloom

from dan FYI

===  News - 1 new result for [''the man with compound eyes'' wu taiwan] ===

Book review: The Man with the Compound Eyes
Taipei Times
Fast forward to 2013: Taiwanese nature writer Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) has
just released an English translation of his The Man with the Compound Eyes
(複眼人) ...

Book review: The Man with the Compound Eyes
By Dan Bloom  /  Contributing reporter

The Man with the Compound Eyes, by Wu Ming-yi.Back in 2009, the New
York Times published an article headlined “Recyclers, Scientists Probe
Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which noted that a group of scientists
had “set sail from San Francisco Bay ... to study the planet’s largest
known floating garbage dump, about 1,000 miles north of Hawaii.”

Fast forward to 2013: Taiwanese nature writer Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) has
just released an English translation of his The Man with the Compound
Eyes (複眼人) that’s aimed at an international readership. The 300-page
novel, which has an eye-catching cover for the new British edition, is
about that same floating dump.

Wu started writing the novel in 2006 when he read about the floating
trash vortex in Chinese-language newspapers. As novelists often do, he
concocted a “vision” based on the vortex: An Aboriginal teenager from
the imaginary island of Wayo Wayo rides this garbage island and washes
up with it one day on the east coast of Taiwan. In the ensuing chaos,
the Taiwanese print and TV media have a field day reporting this
ecological calamity, and Taiwan — the story is set in the near future
of 2020 — is never the same.

In many ways, The Man with the Compound Eyes is a Pacific novel, about
a Pacific Islander identity that differs in many ways from the
commonplace Han Chinese-centric novels that are published in Taiwan.

The novel stars the boy from Wayo Wayo and a middle-aged Taiwanese
college professor named Alice, both of whom are thrown into Taiwan’s
east coast wilderness in a search for some lost hikers -- and
enlightenment. There’s a cast of characters that expats will know well
from their travels along the east coast, and Wu plots the story in
very Taiwanese terms. (The English translation by Canadian expat
Darryl Sterk, a professor at National Taiwan University, is superb and
sensitively captures the nuances of Taiwan’s Aboriginal cultures and

Publication Notes
The Man with the Compound Eyes

By Wu Ming-yi

300 pages

Harvill Secker

Paperback: UK

Wu’s rollercoaster of a story is about wilderness, wildness,
wonderment, love. It’s also about “massage parlors” along the east
coast where tired and drunk soldiers go for rest and relaxation, with
mini-lessons thrown in about various aspects of Aboriginal culture and

For readers in Taiwan who have been here for a number of years and
know the east coast well, Wu’s novel is sure to strike a chord. But
just how this Pacific novel will do overseas with readers in Europe
and North America who know little about Taiwan or the Aboriginal
cultures here remains to be seen.

As a longtime expat in Taiwan, I read the novel as a critique of
modern society’s disregard for our planet’s ecology and environment —
a wake-up call, in other words, for Taiwan and the rest of the world.

Readers overseas might find Wu’s story merely a pleasant diversion
from the daily grind. You may not have to know much about Taiwan or
insect eye biology to enjoy The Man with the Compound Eyes, and the
mid-book chapters about that reveal the mystery behind the man with
the compound eyes are perhaps the best writing to ever come out of a
Taiwan novel. Some readers have drawn comparisons between the novel
and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Yes, it’s that kind of book, and it
would make that kind of movie, too.

Wu’s work began its literary life as a mostly-neglected, unheralded
Chinese-language novel in 2011. Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture and the
National Museum of Taiwan Literature (國立台灣文學館) used their resources
and contacts to help set the book on its way to translation and
overseas publication.

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CLI FI CENTRAL: 'Cli-fi' – a new literary genre

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