Guixing, Zhang 1956-

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Guixing, Zhang 1956-

PERSONAL:

Born 1956, in Sarawak (now North Borneo), Malaysia.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Taipei, Taiwan.

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, and educator. Works as a high school English teacher in Taiwan.

WRITINGS:

Fu Hu, Shi bao wen hua chu ban shi ye you xian gong si (Taipei, Taiwan), 1980.

My South Seas Sleeping Beauty: A Tale of Memory and Longing (novel), translated by Valerie Jaffee, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the novels Siren Song; The Clown Dynasty; Herds of Elephants; and The Primate Cup.

SIDELIGHTS:

Zhang Guixing is a Chinese-Malaysian author and novelist who resides in Taipei, Taiwan. His primary occupation is English teacher in a Taipei high school, but he is the author of several novels, many of which are set in Borneo. His work has attracted both academic acclaim and popular attention in Taiwan.

His novel My South Seas Sleeping Beauty: A Tale of Memory and Longing is a "deeply evocative exploration of sexuality and identity and a masterful reworking" of myths from China and the West, observed a reviewer on the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, USA Web site. The story "starts out with all the right magical realism touches," noted Ian Chapman, writing in Booklist. In a protected compound nestled in the thick, dank jungles of Borneo, narrator Su Qi lives with his eccentric, wealthy, and highly dysfunctional family. His father, an overbearing genius, throws frequent elaborate parties at the compound, avoided by his lovely but reclusive mother. Su Qi's mother is deeply aware of the world around her, her senses and attention almost "preternaturally attuned to the dense, creeping patchwork" of thick jungle undergrowth just outside the safety of the compound, and the dangerous animals that creep in the dark, Chapman remarked. She tends a small garden within the walls of the compound, finding it a place where she can have a small measure of control, but in truth her garden is not much different than the overgrown wilderness that surrounds it. For the characters in the novel, who face the primal essence of the jungle at every turn, there is often a struggle between their identity as human and the desire to revert to the wild and animalistic.

Su Qi finds himself fascinated with the river that divides Malaysia and Borneo, which he can see from his room. While watching, he sees tigers; communist insurgents; and his parents engaging in extramarital affairs with locals. Su Qi's world is shattered when his teenage girlfriend suffers a terrible accident in his mother's garden and is thrown into a coma. Soon after, he travels to Taiwan, where the sedate intellectual life is a strong contrast to the raucous debauchery he witnessed in the jungle compound. In Taipei, Su Qi meets a beautiful young folk singer and fellow student named Keyi. As they navigate their relationship, Su Qi works to reconcile his new life in Taipei with the wilder world he left behind. Years later, when he returns home, it's with newfound knowledge of himself and of the true reasons for his family's presence in the jungle.

Bradley Winterton, writing in the Taipei Times, commented that "this colorful and intriguing novel effort- lessly justifies its new-found status" and popularity. Winterton further called it a "a gripping as well as a probing book."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2007, Ian Chipman, review of My South Seas Sleeping Beauty: A Tale of Memory and Longing, p. 24.

Taipei Times, May 13, 2007, Bradley Winterton, "Going, Going, Gone Native in Borneo and Taipei," review of My South Seas Sleeping Beauty, p. 18.

ONLINE

Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinology, USA, Web site,http://www.cck-iuc.org/ (January 17, 2007), review of My South Seas Sleeping Beauty.

Complete Review,http://www.complete-review.com/ (January 17, 2008), biography of Zhang Guixing.

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