Malaysian-Chinese writer Chang Kuei-hsing wins Newman Prize
Taipei, March 5 (CNA) Malaysian-Chinese Taiwan-based writer Chang Kuei-hsing (張貴興) was awarded the eighth Newman Prize for Chinese Literature at the University of Oklahoma in the United States on Friday.
Following late poet Yang Mu (楊牧) and Chu Ti'en-wen (朱天文), who received the award in 2013 and 2015, respectively, Chang, who migrated to Taiwan in 1976 and got his Taiwanese citizenship in 1982, was the third Taiwanese author to win the biennial honor that recognizes "outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition," according to the official statement.
Despite having won many literary awards in Taiwan and overseas, Chang said the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature still meant a lot to him "because of this word 'Chinese.'"
"The judges of the Newman Literary Prize did not read second-hand translations but my original Chinese works," Chang said.
Since the publication of his debut work in 1980, Chang has been an author of more than 10 novels and short story collections and is known for his "Rainforest Trilogy," "The Elephant Herd" (群象), "The Primate Cup" (猴杯), and "My South Seas Sleeping Beauty" (我思念的長眠中的南國公主), all of which are set in Borneo.
The "unique" way Chang fuses literary aesthetics and narrative styles from the East and the West appealed to his nominator E.K. Tan, who saw traces of William Faulkner's American South and Gabriel García Márquez's magical realism in Chang's "portrayal of the plantations in Borneo" and "stream of consciousness style narrative."
Tan's discovery was by no means a coincidence, given the fact that "it was Western literature that first introduced to me 'that is literature,'" Chang confessed.
However, Chang, who started writing and submitting literary pieces in Chinese in his junior high school years, said he felt proud to create in that language, and he also chose to deliver his speech in Chinese after considering what writing in Chinese meant to him, though he could have spoken English, too.
Using the first part of his speech to describe the history and difficult life of Chinese people in Malaysia, the 66-year-old Chang, who has spent more than two-thirds of his life on the island, expressed his gratitude to the help he has received in Taiwan.
"If I had stayed in Borneo for the rest of my life, I might have given up writing literature long ago," said Chang, referring to the Southeast Asian island, part of which belongs to Malaysia.
"Although most of my novels are based in Nanyang (Southeast Asia), I can continue to create today thanks to the environment and support of Taiwan. I once said that if I die, I'd like to have my heart kept in Taiwan and let my body be returned to Borneo. Just like Chopin, I would like to keep my heart in the motherland," Chang added.
As an "out-and-out Taiwanese," Chang said that talent in Taiwan should not be underestimated because of how small the country is, calling for "more foreign awards and prizes to recognize Taiwanese writers" in the future.
Chang's latest novel "Eyelids of Morning" (鱷眼晨曦) was published by ReadingTimes on Jan. 3, 2023.
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