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September 2022: Kevin Chen 陳思宏

Kevin Chen began his artistic career as a cinema actor, starring in the Taiwanese and German films Ghosted, Kung Bao Huhn, and Global Player. Now based in Germany, he is a staff writer for Performing Arts Reviews magazine. He’s published several novels, essays and short story collections, including Attitude, Flowers from Fingernails, Three Ways to Get Rid of Allergies and other titles.

Bio from Books From Taiwan

This month we're delighted to feature author Kevin Chen, with an extract from his novel Ghost Town, translated by Darryl Sterk and published in August 2022 by Europa Editions. The novel won the Taiwan Literature Award 2020. You can read the extract in Chinese, and in Darryl's English translation.

Keith Chen, the desperately yearned for second son of a traditional Taiwanese family with five daughters, refuses to play the role his parochial parents would cast him in. Instead, he chooses to make a life for himself in cosmopolitan Berlin, where he finally finds acceptance as a young gay man.

The novel is set about a decade later, on Ghost Festival, the Day of Deliverance. After Keith’s release from a maximum-security prison, he has nowhere to go but home. With his parents gone, his siblings married, mad, on the lam, or dead, there is nothing left for him there, so it seems. As he explores his uncanny home town, we learn what tore his family apart, and, more importantly, the truth behind the terrible crime Keith committed in Germany.

Told in a myriad of voices—both living and dead—and moving through time with deceptive ease, Ghost Town is a mesmerizing story of family secrets, countryside superstitions, and the search for identity amid a clash of cultures.

Darryl Sterk is a scholar specialising in the representation of Taiwan's aboriginal peoples in film and fiction, and a writer and literary translator specialising in Taiwan literature. He teaches in the Graduate Program in Translation and Interpretation at National Taiwan University.

We've featured a number of Darryl's translations on our bookclub, including works by Egoyan Zheng 伊格言 and Horace Ho 何致和.

You can also find him on The Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, talking to Angus Stewart about author Chih-ying Lay and his collection of short stories Home Sickness (匿逃者).

And if you'd like to find out more about Ghost Town, there's an interesting video review from Books and Bao.