President Tsai Ing-wen met on the afternoon of June 17 with Mr. Akira Higashiyama (a.k.a. Wang Chen-hsu), winner of Japan's 153rd Naoki Prize for literature. In addition to congratulating Mr. Higashiyama for the prize, the president also spoke with her visitor about his life in Japan and what he plans to write about in the future.
Speaking with the president about his life in Japan, Mr. Higashiyama said that he teaches Chinese at university and writes in his spare time, but is considering teaching less so that he can devote more time and energy to his writing.
Inquiring about her visitor's future writing plans, the president learned that Mr. Higashiyama just published a science fiction novel this May, and that he intends to write more stories about Taiwan in his next work. Mr. Higashiyama was awarded the Naoki Prize for his novel Ryu, the storyline of which is set in the year 1975. His next work will feature a story that takes place in 1984. By providing a realistic description of that period, Mr. Higashiyama hopes to enable more people in Japan to better understand Taiwan's past.
Commenting on this visit to Taiwan and how things differ from his childhood memories, Mr. Higashiyama stated that he was especially struck by the fact that the streets are a lot cleaner than when he was a child. As for culture and literature, he said that Taiwan now "presents all sorts of challenges to be explored," because there is a great diversity of values here. One function of literature might be to "relativize" these values–meaning that an author could use literature to help readers accept and understand diverse values, and come to the realization that "values are not absolute."
After their chat, President Tsai and Mr. Higashiyama exchanged signed copies of books they've authored. President Tsai presented her Ing's Clique: The Last Mile to Light Up Taiwan, while Mr. Higashiyama gave the president a copy of Ryu.