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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Bear Whispers to Me (The)
by Chang Ying-Tai
Age Range: 12+
When a reclusive young boy discovers his father's diary he is transported to an alpine world that his father once inhabited as a child. Filled with drawings, photos and anecdotes, the diary reveals a world alive with birdsong, hidden tree spirits, dancing fleas and encounters with a bear cub. It also recounts his father's relationship with his own father Momo, encounters with the strange bear-man, a snake charmer and the child-girl Lotus.
The Bear Whispers to Me is a rare example of Taiwanese fiction available in English. Although it is quite a short novel, less than 200 pages, and there is not much in the way of plot, award winning Taiwanese writer Chang Ying-Tai's has woven an emotive, magical fable. It highlights a bygone world and the beauty of Taiwan's little-known aboriginal history – full of its tribal spirits, ritual songs and a way of communing with nature that has sadly been lost today. The poignant writing is exquisite, which is down to a beautifully fluent translation by Darryl Sterk. "On the way down, my whole body feels light, carried along on currents of air, with superlative grace. And the cool breezes, butterfly shadows, bird calls and insect cries make me feel wide open and carefree".
It is good to see Taiwanese fiction being made available to a UK audience and this unusual book deserves to be read just for the sheer beauty of its prose.