Taiwanese Novel ‘The Stolen Bicycle’ Marked as China’s by The Man Booker Prize 2018


Something big lies behind something small; a name can speak for a whole island.


As a history-embroidered island, Taiwan has been oppressed by the Chinese government for a long time: from United Nations, Olympic games, to any international events, the nationality of this beautiful island is always forced to be “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei” instead of its real and solid name-Taiwan.


Again, the same thing happened this March when Taiwanese novel The Stolen Bicycle 單車失竊記 written by Professor Wu Ming-Yi 吳明益 was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. While literature-lovers celebrated the first Taiwanese novel to be Man Booker-nominated, the organization, without warning, changed the nationality of the author and his book from “Taiwan” into “Taiwan, China” following a complaint by the Chinese embassy in London.




Image via Yahoo.news



Insisting that his persepective is that of a Taiwanese national, not a Chinese national, Wu instantly posted his reaction on Facebook, expressing his appreciation toward the organization and his dissatisfaction with the political manipulation, with a back-and-white seemingly peaceful landscape of clouded sky and wavery ocean:




The Man Booker Prize have reacted to my personal viewpoint after several days passed. I consider this was not them responding to my individual will but to the free will of literature, which means The Man Booker Prize acknowledges the integrity and liberty embedded in the will of literature.


Though my work was inspired by so many cultures around the world, the essence of it sprouts, grows, and evolved on a land called “Taiwan.” Just like the elements in my next work-the Formosan clouded leopard, Taiwan Hemlock, the surrounding oceans, and the two hundreds of three-thousand-meter mountains-without the land and the name, my works rely on nothing.


My works are written for those who can read my words. Through the extraordinary translators’ efforts, my words can also be written fro those who use another languages; they are written for those who agree with my thoughts and, meanwhile, for those who don’t. Readers wake the works up, having the power of interpretation; yet, my “heart” belongs to no one except for myself.


(Exceprt from Wu’s original post; translation mine)




Image via illustrator Brian Wang and scmp



On August 17th, Wu attended the conference at National Liberal Club in London, having a talk with Barak Kushner, the Professor of History in Cambridge University. According to Yahoo.news and Taipei Times, Wu again expressed his thoughts on the nationality-changed event that Taiwan has been oppressed by the Chinese government in many international situations; thus, the voices of its 23 million people need to be heard, clearly and unbiasedly. 


“I’m one of those voices and I insisted on letting others hear that voice,” Wu said, “I hope Taiwan can accept and tolerate all cultural identities…Only by respecting each other’s identities can we accept each other and embrace other cultures. Otherwise, the national identity issue in Taiwan could divide its people and destroy the shared emotions of its people and all the possibilities, resulting in tragedy.”



The story of The Stolen Bicycle revolves around a missing bicycle. The writer (the “I” in the novel) embarks on his journey in search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle and finds out his journey is woven with so many histories, stories, and memories: of Lin Wang 林旺, the oldest elephant that ever lived in Asia; the soldiers who fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia during World War II; and the secret worlds of butterfly handicraft makers and antique-bicycle fanatics of Taiwan. The further the “I” dives, the blurrier the line between fiction and reality becomes. It is not a nostalgic novel but an homage to the beings who lived in that time. While searching for the bicycle, the character (along with the readers) becomes entangled with something/someone, big and small, and their destinies in the island.



Wu and his studio of bicycles | Image via 自由時報


Though the Man Booker International Prize has corrected the nationality, we should not ignore this accident, intended or not, and the way it has violated the essence of literature and humanity. Political manipulation is not welcomed in a prize for literature, especially the one that was up to no good.






The book cover was designed by Wu himself | Image via Taiwanese People News