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:


[…] 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.


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:


[…] 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:


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].

1 comment

  • San

    Somehow Li Yong-Ping’s remarks remind me of the so-called ‘conceptual blending’, a theory developed by Gilles Fauconnier, stating that it is possible to blend two different concepts and produce a different one having properties of both its original sources and its own. Event though the first river in Taiwan and the second river in Borneo are similar in terms of conceptualization of ‘river’, in reality each river has different geographical, chemical, and physical properties. By blending the two rivers in the mental space, the author (Li Yong-ping) attempted to generate a new river having properties different from the original rivers, yet it also inherits some of their properties.

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