Report on the Travelling Workshop "How the Wild Changed Me – Reading and Discussion with Lung Ying-Tai"
Travelling Workshop from October 23 to October 26, 2023, at the University of Würzburg, the University of Tübingen, University of Heidelberg and University of Göttingen
News from Jan 08, 2024
The Worldmaking Projekct invited Taiwanese writer and former minister Lung Ying-Tai for a travelling workshop from October 23 to 26, during which she and her German translator Monika Li visited Tübingen, Würzburg, Heidelberg and Göttingen. On October 25 the Heidelberg team was happy to host the event:
“Epochal Lifeworlds – Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change,” the Heidelberg subproject of the joint research venture “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective – A Dialogue with China” engages with the multiple and complex entanglements of actors on the political and societal stage with their living environments in the course and perception of crisis and changes that we may then – in retrospective – call ‘epochal.’
One author who has actively shaped the transformation of Taiwan from authoritarian system to democracy and has reflected on and intervened in the tension-loaded societal constellations in the late 20th and early 21st century and the transformations of the very soil this society is living on is Lung Ying-Tai. On 25 October the “Epochal Lifeworlds” project could welcome her on her German travelling workshop that took her to the various “Worldmaking” partner projects. The Heidelberg team was lucky to win as cooperation partners the Taiwan Academy with its Taiwan Distinguished Lecture Series, the Confucius Institute and the Heidelberg Autumn Literary Festival which quite aptly chose as this year’s motto the theme “Freedom” – an ideal with many facets that Lung Ying-Tai has fought for throughout her writing career.
Author of various essays, the documentary novel 大江大海Big River, Big Sea: Untold Stories of 1949 and now the novel 大武山下, Mount Kavulungan, former minister of culture of the city of Taipei and later the Republic of China, Lung Ying-Tai is known for controversial essays – but also knows how to deliberately make use of silence. Traditionally, Chinese intellectuals have taken several possible positions, that of serving the country and ruler as an official; that of critiquing the ruler directly, from outside the bureaucracy or from inside, as the official censor (who may then be risiking to lose his job, thus being/becoming the “pure official”)— and, thirdly, that of the critic from afar—only seemingly a “silent loner”—who is so abominated by the abuses of power that he is no longer willing to “wag his tail in human dirt,” a metaphor from Zhuangzi.
In “Mount Kavulungan”, Lung Ying-Tai deliberately plays with the possibilities of distancing and engaging reapproachment, historically, temporally, personally. The novel is many things at once – crime fiction, ghost story, nature writing – among other. It tells the story of an unsuccessful, spiritually lost writer who is sent to live in Southern Taiwan, next to Mount Kavulungan, by her Buddhist master and sets out on a journey of encounters and confrontations with people of all backgrounds, with the living and the dead, and a beautiful yet fragile living space.
Together with her German translator, Monika Li, Lung Ying-Tai read snippets of the novel to the large audience that had made its way to the CATS. Some of the audience knew the author quite well as Lung Ying-Tai taught Taiwanese and World literature in Heidelberg in the 1990s, before her return to Taiwan. No less interested was the younger generation so that the room could hardly fit the audience that had come to listen to her. Without giving away too much of the plot, Lung Ying-Tai told many more stories that stand behind the story the book tells – personal experiences of migration and search, and the experience of living in a small town in Southern Taiwan, engaging with people in their everyday community live, their spirituality, getting closer to the flora and fauna of Taiwan while getting a broader view of the contemporary political conflicts when seen in a broader framework of history.
Many of her avid readers that were present used the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Lung Ying-Tai after the reading and presentation.