Notes of a Desolate Man

Chu T’ien-wen. Translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Columbia University Press

Notes of a Desolate Man

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Pub Date: October 2000

ISBN: 9780231116091

184 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.95£20.00

Pub Date: May 1999

ISBN: 9780231116084

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£58.00

Pub Date: May 1999

ISBN: 9780231500081

184 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $25.99£20.00

Notes of a Desolate Man

Chu T’ien-wen. Translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin

Columbia University Press

Winner of the coveted China Times Novel Prize, this postmodern, first-person tale of a contemporary Taiwanese gay man reflecting on his life, loves, and intellectual influences is among the most important recent novels in Taiwan.

The narrator, Xiao Shao, recollects a series of friends and lovers, as he watches his childhood friend, Ah Yao, succumb to complications from AIDS. The brute fact of Ah Yao's death focuses Shao's simultaneously erudite and erotic reflections magnetically on the core theme of mortality. By turns humorous and despondent, the narrator struggles to come to terms with Ah Yao's risky lifestyle, radical political activism, and eventual death; the fragility of romantic love; the awesome power of eros; the solace of writing; the cold ennui of a younger generation enthralled only by video games; and life on the edge of mainstream Taiwanese society. His feverish journey through forests of metaphor and allusion—from Fellini and Lévi-Strauss to classical Chinese poetry—serves as a litany protecting him from the ravages of time and finitude.

Impressive in scope and detail, Notes of a Desolate Man employs the motif of its characters' marginalized sexuality to highlight Taiwan's vivid and fragile existence on the periphery of mainland China. Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin's masterful translation brings Chu T'ien-wen's lyrical and inventive pastiche of political, poetic, and sexual desire to the English-speaking world.
Superb.... A strong and perceptive voice now arises from Taiwan.... Notes of a Desolate Man is a novel of questions and imponderables, not so much a cry of pain as the lively, sharp-witted record of it. Peter Kurth, New York Times Book Review
The novel in poetic translation is in itself a joy to read, writing that inspires awe for its intellectual scope and its sensitive portrayal of gay men and their lives—and deaths. Charles-Gene McDaniel, Libido
A fascinating glimpse into one man's experience of Taiwanese gay life. Susan Vreeland, San Francisco Chronicle
A stylish meditation on marginalization, radicalization and decay. Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
Ambitious, intelligent, and intense. Booklist
A poetic, philosophical account of a friendship between two gay men. Publishers Weekly
Translator's Preface
Notes of a Deslolate Man
Notes on Notes

About the Author

Chu T'ien-Wen has published fifteen books—novels, stories, memoirs, and film scripts—and has won five major literary prizes. She also received the best script award at both the Venice and Tokyo film festivals. Her most highly acclaimed works are Fin de Siècle Splendor and Notes of a Desolate Man, which was published in Taiwan in 1994.

Howard Goldblatt is professor of Chinese literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and translator of many books, most recently Mo Yan's Red Sorghum and Silver City by Li Rui. He is also the coeditor, with Joseph Lau, of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature.

Sylvia Li-chun Lin, who teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writes on modern Chinese literature and culture.