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Latest book by French writer Bourgault features Taiwan protagonist

03/18/2023 10:12 PM
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French author Pierrick Bourgault (second right), with Taiwan
French author Pierrick Bourgault (second right), with Taiwan's top envoy to Paris François Wu (second left) and Director of the Taiwan Cultural Center in France Hu Ching-fang (left). CNA photo March 13, 2023

Paris, March 18 (CNA) The most recent novel published by French author Pierrick Bourgault features a female Taiwanese character, who faces various challenges as an expatriate in France.

Titled "Journal d'un café de campagne," the novel tells the story of two 40-year-olds, a Taiwanese woman named Lin and her French husband Yann, who move to a small town about two hours by train from Paris to open a cafe.

One of the major obstacles they face is keeping their small business afloat in a rural area, which is typically plagued by bureaucracies that are unfriendly to entrepreneurs.

At a promotional event at a Paris bistro on March 6, which was attended by Taiwan's top envoy to Paris François Wu (吳志中) and Director of the Taiwan Cultural Center in France Hu Ching-fang (胡晴舫), Bourgault said he crafted the story based on his own observations of the plight of young dream chasers in France, where people seek to move out of urban centers into more provincial areas but are often hampered by local government regulations.

The book event of French author Pierrick Bourgault. CNA photo March 13, 2023
The book event of French author Pierrick Bourgault. CNA photo March 13, 2023

He chose a Taiwanese character to lead his novel, so parallels can be drawn between a country that cultivates entrepreneurs in rural areas versus one that discourages such kinds of ideas.

Bourgault visited the Asian country in 2012 and did an islandwide tour on scooter.

"I was searching for a country (when first writing his novel) that stands shoulder to shoulder and could be compared and contrasted with France," he said. "Taiwan is a highly developed country whose citizens are democratically independent, making them very suitable for storytelling."

Speaking with CNA at the event, he said the character Lin was chosen to examine France's traditions from the perspective of an immigrant, all the while presenting various aspects of Taiwan culture to French readers.

"From the observations I was able to make during my visit to Taiwan, I think Taiwanese women are steadfast and affable," Bourgault said. "They will definitely speak their minds but won't deliberately ignite conflict. They are also gentle yet firm on determining what they want, which are admirable traits."

French author Pierrick Bourgault. CNA photo March 13, 2023
French author Pierrick Bourgault. CNA photo March 13, 2023

He said one of the most memorable aspects of his Taiwan visit was seeing many highly educated youths returning home to rural areas to invest their skills and expertise into agriculture, and arts and culture, including handicraft.

It seemed that Taiwan has been taking steps for the past 10 years to improve the working environment in rural areas, which is quite rare in France, Bourgault said. "In France, you either own a humble boutique establishment or a giant-sized conglomerate," he said.

While people of working age in France also wish to develop artistic spaces and run cafes and restaurants in the countryside, they are deterred by the bureaucracy, he explained.

"To me, Taiwan represents more freedom and easier access for the younger generation to become creative entrepreneurs, and my book pays respect to those qualities," Bourgault said. "I use my story as a way to criticize France's bureaucracy in that regard."

Asked about a possible return to Taiwan, Bougault said he hopes to visit Taiwan again to explore the eastern part of the island and learn about the local indigenous cultures, adding that he currently plans to publish a photo book on the world's restaurants, cafes and cuisines, which will include Taiwan.

(By Judy Tseng and James Lo)


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