Thursday, May 8, 2014

Where Worlds Collide

Book Review: The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi [translated by Darryl Sterk]

"No other creature can share experience like this. Only human beings can, through writing, experience something separately together." - The Man with the Compound Eyes

Most of us lead what we consider simple lives. We look at the mundane activities of daily life - eating, sleeping, working - without consideration of how they affect, or are affected, by the world around us. Indeed, our quest for individuality seems to demand that we see ourselves as separate, living at the center our own little world.

The Man with the Compound Eyes is a novel of interconnectedness; where people, places, things, and even time periods come together, and "the finest movement of any organism represents a change in an ecosystem." Author Wu Ming-Yi takes us to a place where our mythic past of oral legends and wrathful gods meets our technological present of live news coverage and cell phones. There, on a beach in Taiwan, they must confront not only each other but the uncertain future as well, when the rising ocean dumps back all the trash people had dumped into it.

As if we have compound eyes, Wu Ming-YI allows us to see a single series of events from multiple perspectives; each intimately personal, yet remaining interrelated. Woven together with the threads of life, death, love, and loss, the characters in The Man with the Compound Eyes face their shared trials and individual travails. "Life doesn't allow you any preconceptions. Most of the time you have to accept what life throws at you, kind of like walking into a restaurant where the owner dictates what you're having for dinner."

Lyrical, mystical, yet ultimately real, The Man with the Compound Eyes is a subtly layered novel that shows us an intricate and multi-faceted world - the world we just happen to live in. An enjoyable read; the translation by Darryl Sterk is seamless. A welcome addition to my library, and highly recommended.