The Stolen Bicycle

Wu Ming-Yi

translated from the Mandarin by Daryl Sterk
The Text Publishing Company 2017
A book review by Danny Yee © 2020
When the narrator's father went missing twenty years ago, he took his bicycle with him. The Stolen Bicycle begins with some deeper family history, in "A History of the Bicycles my Family Has Lost", before the narrator, searching for his father's bicycle, gets involved with the sequestered world of Taiwan's antique bicycle collectors. There are also some brief "Bike Notes" on East Asian cycling history and bicycle design, but those with no interest in that should not be put off.

Other digressions within the main narrative include the stories of friends who have also lost fathers, an introduction to Taiwan's butterfly industry and the use of butterfly wings to make collages, a view of the Japanese use of bicycles in the invasion of Malaya, and stories about the wartime use of elephants in the jungles of Burma and Taipei Zoo's famous Lin Wang. And in the background is more mundane history: the loss of villages and neighbourhoods to development and urban sprawl, steady social change, and the effects of modernity on indigenous peoples. (An afterward discusses how the original text used Taiwanese, Tsou and Japanese as well as Mandarin).

This somehow all holds together, with a logic of its own: The Stolen Bicycle is a spiralling exploration of memory and history, individual, familial and social. For the foreigner, it also works as a kind of introduction to the modern history of Taiwan. And it's an enjoyable story.

May 2020

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%T The Stolen Bicycle
%A Wu Ming-Yi
%M Mandarin
%F Sterk, Daryl
%I The Text Publishing Company
%D 2017
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781911231240
%P 376pp