|Copyright Shen Hueifeng|
Kan Yao-Ming (b. 1972) has been hailed as Taiwan's foremost writer of “Neo Nativism”, successfully mixing farce, tall tales, folk legends and country memories to create a unique magic realist world. Like a magician of words, he writes with a highly experimental but always accessible language and tells stories that are unpredictable but always hit straight at the reader’s heart. Kan’s reputation was first built on two collections of short stories, THE MYSTERIOUS TRAIN (2003), and THE SCHOOL OF THE WATER SPIRIT (2005), and he was won numerous awards for his short fiction, frequently chosen for “Best of the Year” anthologies. He is a two-time winner of the China Times Open Book Award for Best Chinese Writing.
The publication of Kan’s first novel, the 300,000-word epic KILLING GHOSTS (2009), was met a level of excitement akin to Roberto Bolaño’s THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Set in 1940s rural Taiwan, before and after the Japanese colonial rule, it is a dazzling feat of storytelling that centres of the adventures of Pa. An unusually tall boy for his age, imbued with some kind of superhuman spirits of the gods, Pa hurtles through a magical landscape filled with trains that “can walk without rails,” boy soldiers who march with their family tombstones on their backs, and a stubborn old man who defies the Japanese rule by burying himself alive but turns into a forest. Told in a language mixing Mandarin, Japanese, Hakka and Taiwanese dialects, the novel addresses serious historical and political issues with a fabulist approach that is gleefully irreverent and wildly imaginative.
KILLING GHOSTS became the most talked-about Chinese novel from Taiwan in 2009, selling over 10,000 copies, a huge number for a domestic literary novel. It won both the China Times Open Book Award, the Taipei Book Fair (TIBE) Award, and was chosen as the Chinese Book of the Year by Books.com, the leading online bookstore in Taiwan. Mo Yan, wrote an enthusiastic blurb for the book, praising its power as “able to move heaven and earth.”