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Arts group seeking funding for stage-adapted 'Ghost Town' world tour

02/12/2024 01:59 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) "Ghost Town" (鬼地方), a novel by a highly acclaimed Taiwanese author exploring gay identity, is being adapted into a play that could tour the world in 2025 if there is adequate funding, according to a Chiayi City-based performing arts group.

Our Theatre has put on two trial performances of the play, infused with circus and traditional folk art elements, in Changhua, the novel's backdrop, and is now working to secure ample funding to go on a world tour in 2025, a spokesperson for the troupe told CNA.

The stage play faithfully follows the plot of the novel and presents the story "in its original and authentic form," the spokesperson said.

Ghost Town, a novel by Kevin Chen (陳思宏), is based on Chen's experiences growing up gay in a small town in Changhua.

Set in Changhua's Yongjing Township, the novel revolves around a young man from a traditional Taiwanese family who flees to Germany to find acceptance of his homosexuality.

After serving a prison sentence in Berlin for his involvement in his boyfriend's accidental death, the protagonist returns to his hometown, only to face emotional entanglements within his family.

He searches for a sense of belonging, desperate to find his place in his hometown as he deals with the complexities of his identity as a homosexual.

The novel's stage adaptation reflected Chen's advocacy of transforming Taiwanese literary works into other artistic formats as a way to get them recognized, something he said was essential for all Taiwanese authors in a talk organized by the National Museum of Taiwan Literature in Tainan in December.

"Literature is not a money-losing commodity," he said at the time.

Author Kevin Chen speaks at a talk at the Taipei Cultural Center in New York during a U.S. book tour in May 2023. CNA file photo
Author Kevin Chen speaks at a talk at the Taipei Cultural Center in New York during a U.S. book tour in May 2023. CNA file photo

Chen discussed how "Ghost Town" became recognized globally despite major barriers, and stressed how important it was to have works translated in English to get recognition.

First published in Mandarin in 2019, "Ghost Town" won the Annual Golden Grand Laurel Award at the Taiwan Literature Awards in 2020. It was later translated into English by Darryl Sterk, and the English translation was published in August 2022.

That, according to Chen, was a key turning point for the book.

A month later, "Ghost Town" made the list of the New York Times' most anticipated books of Fall 2022, and was also selected by Library Journal for their Best of World Literature 2022.

The book has now been translated into English, Korean, Vietnamese, French and Italian, and its translation rights have been sold for 12 languages.

In his talk in December, the 47-year-old Chen said selling the rights to the English version of a novel are usually the hardest to sell, but that was something that Taiwanese authors have to overcome because English versions of their works are critical to promoting Taiwanese literature globally.

Now based in Germany, Chen emphasized the importance of having a full English translation to get noticed by book scouts and literary agents around the world, which could further attract buyers of rights to a work's translated version.

Also important to gaining recognition, Chen said, were international writing competitions, because once a translated work wins a prize, its visibility will grow and will help with selling the original work's rights in English.

Arguing that Taiwanese literature should be treated as a brand, Chen encouraged local writers to market Taiwanese works with confidence and value their intellectual property (IP).

On developing IP, Chen cited the theatrical adaptation of "Ghost Town" by Chiayi-based "Our Theatre" as an example of how more people can get to know the literary works of Taiwanese writers through the promotion of IP.

He said he hoped the success of his novel will attract more investment in Taiwan's literary IP, as well as movie and TV adaptations.

(By Chiu Tzu-yin and Bernadette Hsiao)


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