Tag: memory


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





Want to Improve Your Memory? Recite Sanskrit Mantras!

James Hartzell wrote a piece for Scientific American earlier this week delving into the “Sanskrit Effect”—the name for what MRI scans show as the increase of the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function due to memorizing ancient mantras. 


Hartzell, who spent many years studying and translating the language, noticed that the more he worked with the language, the better his verbal memory became. Other researchers and translators spoke of their own cognitive improvements, and there developed the question:


Was there actually a language-specific “Sanskrit effect” as claimed by the tradition?


Pandits, the traditional scholars of the language, master a variety of Sanskrit poetry and prose text. One of India’s most ancient Sanskrit texts, the Shukla Yajurveda, takes six hours to completely recite. The tradition says that exactly memorizing and reciting the texts, or mantras, enhances memory and thinking. 


Hartzell then entered the cognitive neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Trento in Italy, and took the opportunity to start investigating his question. He wanted to discover how intense verbal memory training can affect the physical structure of the brain, and through the India-Trento Partnership for Advanced Research, the scientist recruited pandits from schools in the Delhi region. Once they arrived in Italy, they received MRIs, and so did a control group matched for age, gender, right-or-left-handedness, eye-dominance, and multilingualism. 


What we discovered from the structural MRI scanning was remarkable. Numerous regions in the brains of the pandits were dramatically larger than those of controls, with over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness. Although the exact cellular underpinnings of gray matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.


Hartzell’s study resulted in some incredible results, which you can delve farther into in the original article. One of the most interesting questions that’s come of his study is whether or not the pandits’ increase of gray matter in areas of the brain important to memory means they are less likely to develop subsequent memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. They can’t answer that yet, but anecdotal reports from Ayurvedic doctors in India suggest the possibility. This then asks the question, will “exercising” the brain help those at risk for cognitive impairment, or even prevent its onset?


Can’t wait to find out!


Featured image via the Association for Yoga and Meditation.