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Taiwan author discusses gay literature at book exhibition

2019/02/15 00:04:08

Taipei, Feb. 14 (CNA) Speaking at the 2019 Taipei International Book Exhibition, 30-year-old award-winning Taiwanese novelist Li Kotomi (李琴峰) observed that unlike today most characters in earlier gay and lesbian literature did not recognize their own sexual orientation.

Li won Japan's Gunzo New Writers' Prize with her work "Solo Dance" in 2017 - a first for a Taiwanese author. World-renowned writer Haruki Murakami's first novel also received the award.

The term "identity" used to be completely new, she said.

While depicting the loneliness of lesbians and the gloomy lives of homosexual writers in the 1990s, "Solo Dance" also discusses collective memory in Taiwan, including the 921 earthquake in 1999, the most powerful quake to hit Taiwan in over a century and the Sunflower movement in March 2014, the largely youth-led occupation of the Legislative Yuan.

Looking back on the development of Taiwanese queer literature, Li said earlier authors such as Pai Hsien-yung (白先勇) and Chiu Miao-chin (邱妙津) mostly dealt with suicide, exile and self-recognition.

Pai's book "Crystal Boys"(1983) is widely regarded as the first gay novel in twentieth-century literature written in Chinese, while Chiu's "Notes of a Crocodile"(1994) is recognized as a classic of Taiwan lesbian literature.

"Solo Dance" was first written in Japanese and later translated into Chinese when the book was to be published in Taiwan.

When asked about the difference between the two versions, Li said she made some modification based on cultural differences between the two nations.

She also added footnotes for a more complete picture.

Speaking about life after winning the illustrious award, Li said although her colleagues in her day job know she won the prize and are aware of her sexual orientation, they rarely mention it.

It does not cause as much trouble as one might imagine, she said.

The Taiwan-born novelist currently writes in Japanese as Japan offers more publishing opportunities for writers, but does not rule out the possibility of writing in Chinese in the future.

(By Chiang Pei-ling and Chung Yu-chen)