Christmas Staff Picks: Island of Silence by Su Wei-Chen, translated by Jeremy Tiang
recommended by Suning
Chen-mian, a young Taiwanese woman with a troubled background, is dissatisfied with the reality of her life. Also obsessed with islands, she finds them safer and more contained than larger pieces of land. She thus travels to Hong Kong, Bali and Singapore, trying to find a secure hiding place. Trailing in her subconscious is her idealised fantasy existence—‘the other Chen-mian’—whose life increasingly intertwines with that of Chen-mian herself.
A winner of the China Times Million Yuan Literacy Prize for the Novel (Jury Prize, 1994), Island of Silence delves into the individual’s complex of loneliness and alienation. I reckon this to be one of the lesser genres of work that we publish, so it was a doubly refreshing and arresting read for me. (Yes, I like Murakami. Good Murakami.) The connection between physical and metaphysical space on an individual’s psyche made me question myself as an islander and my own isolated sense of the world. Deeply thought-provoking and resonating.
P.S. The Afterword by Su Wei-chen at the end is a delightful bonus: an insight into her personal sentiments penning this novel.
Suning is living in a dream working at Ethos Books. She tries to tend to her soul regularly and is a work in progress. Her obsession is coffee. Flat white or with peng.