Sorceress Diguwan (《笛鸛》英譯本)

Title: Sorceress Diguwan

Author: Badai; Translator: Catherine Hsiao

Imprint: Taipei: Serenity International, 2013

ISBN: 9789868234048

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By Cheng-yu Jung/鍾承育

Badai is a contemporary Taiwan indigenous writer born at Damalagaw, a Puyuma village in Taitung County in 1962. He attended military academy in his youth and then served as an officer of Marine Corps after graduation. His previous experience of serving in the military helps him to develop a unique writing skill to precisely describe combat scenes in many of his works. And his participation in local cultural and historical works also helps him to develop his historical fictions by digging out forgotten history of Taiwan indigenous people. Badai’s literary talent began to receive public attention in his middle age when newspapers and literary magazines published his short works. Sorceress Diguwan (笛鸛), a gold-prize winner of 2008 Taiwan Literature Award, is his first fiction published in 2007 signaling a groundbreaking event of his literary career. He is now a proliferative writer of eight books.

Known as a fiction writer, Badai often writes about life stories of his tribal people. And Ginger Road (薑路) is such an example in which he characterizes life experience of his mother who struggles against poverty by farming ginger in the field. In another example, Badai tells a life story of a tribal veteran Ching-shan Chen(陳清山) in Passing By (走過). The author studied autobiographical manuscripts of Chen who was conscripted into the army to fight in Chinese Civil War in Mainland China after World War II. And Chen was unfortunately detained in China due to defeat. His fate and struggle for return is represented in Passing By.

Among Badai’s eight books, Sorceress Diguwan and the succeeding work Mazizir (馬鐵路) were first translated into Japanese by Uozumi Etsuko (魚住悅子) and published in 2012. And Sorceress Diguwan was translated into English by Catherine Hsiao and recently published in 2013. Sorceress Diguwan is the first roman-fleuve (novel-stream or novel circle in French) ever produced by Puyuma writers. There is a very particular story about the birth of the fiction. Badai read a history of a conflict between his tribal people and Bunun people from Pasnanavan (內本鹿 or Nibiluk in the source text) in the documents of aborigine controlling policy (理蕃誌稿) compiled by Japanese colonial government. Then he interviewed his tribal elders to verify this history in December 2002. To his surprise, the elders told him a totally different story of the same conflict–a difference between so-called official history and unofficial history. And the difference further motivated the author to frame the fiction through different narrative perspectives based on the author’s field works.

Sorceress Diguwan is situated under a historical context of Japanese colonial period. The ethnic composition of local population includes Puyuma people, Han Chinese new settlers who move from the west part of Taiwan, and Japanese colonizers in the setting of the fiction. To highlight this multi-ethnic figure, Badai presents dialogues between characters mainly through a bilingual way in the source text, namely Chinese and Puyuma. The dialogues between tribal characters are first written in Romanized Puyuma followed by the matching Chinese texts while the dialogues of new settlers are expressed colloquially in Min Nan dialect. Yet this bilingual figure is somehow absent in the translated work so that English speaking readers would not be able to experience this distinct linguistic figure, which often employed by many Taiwan indigenous writers, in the source text.

The multi-ethnic composition of local population also allows Badai to signify multi-culturalism in Sorceress Diguwan. Ethnic boundaries seems clear but the author attempts to blur ethnic distinction by incorporating, for instance, new settlers’ agricultural skills to ensure the survival of tribal members. In addition to the oppression from the colonial government, people of Damalagaw also face threats from the surrounding non-Puyuma tribes; thus this fiction should offer readers a picture of inter-tribal tension during the colonial period. Meanwhile English speaking readers would read how witchcraft tradition, or “Native Formosan Magic” as John Anderson puts it in the introduction, functions in Taiwan indigenous societies. Badai also presents how tribal people organize themselves to form defense groups according to social hierarchy and tribal tradition. Here Badai reconstructs detailed and precise plots of tribal defense operation according to his previous military experience.

In brief, Sorceress Diguwan is the first complete English translation of Badai’s fictions. It is rich in multi-cultural, gender, and social-political issues of a Puyuma village between 1915 and 1920.


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