February 2021: Egoyan Zheng 伊格言

Egoyan Zheng holds an MA in Chinese Literature, alongside degrees in psychology and medicine from Taiwan’s top universities. He is one of Taiwan’s most acclaimed young writers, having been selected for several prestigious short story collections and prizes. He has also won international recognition, having been shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007 and the Frank O’Connor short story award in 2008.

Bio from Books From Taiwan

This month we’re delighted to feature an extract from one of Egoyan’s novels, Ground Zero (零地點), translated by Darryl Sterk for Books from Taiwan. You can read the extract in Chinese here, and in English translation here.

The book draws on real life, including issues around the Taiwan Power Company and the No. 4 Nuclear Station; Zheng has called it “active art,” indicating that the readers themselves are part of it. The book presents a prophetic description of a nuclear disaster befalling the No. 4 Nuclear Station, and the apocalyptic scenes that follow. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the book was translated into Japanese, sparking passionate discussions among readers and literary circles in Japan. Taiwan Ministry of Culture.

There’s an interesting feature on Zheng in the Taipei Times here.

Zheng maintains an interest in science, especially its philosophical implications, and has plans to write science fiction at some point, but the mentality that pushes him toward literature is the desire to explore the irrational in humans. This is behind the choice of his pen name, taken from the Canadian director Atom Egoyan, whose films Zheng admires. Talking about Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Zheng said: “A part of the story is telling you that the irrational part of a person can often be much stronger than the rational. … Simplifying, I can say that after watching that film, I had an appreciation of the dark power of the irrational. It left a deep impression on me. I later realized that this was a response to a good piece of art.”

If you want to explore more of his work, you can also read an extract from his novel The Dream Devourer (噬梦人) here, translated by Conor Stuart. Another extract from the novel, translated by Cara Healey, can be found in the collection The Reincarnated Giant (edited by Mingwei Song and Theodore Huters).

And his story Falling appeared in Asymptote, translated by Laura Jane Wey.