The opening line to Wu Ming-Yi’s novel “The Stolen Bicycle” reads: “I must describe that morning for you, because every time something is described anew it becomes meaningful anew.”
Finding new meaning is exactly what the novel sets out to do, and not only through “description”, but by exploring the lives of the protagonist’s family and friends, from childhood onwards. Wu then unveils aspects of the culture of his homeland as his characters are embroiled in events in Taiwan’s turbulent history, such as occupation by the Japanese.
The stories at the heart of the novel are allowed to emerge through observation of the many lives encountered by the protagonist in his manic search for classic bicycles, in particular a bike that once belonged to his father, who disappeared many years ago. While searching for bicycles may sound pedestrian, somehow it is a theme that leads to all sorts of adventures of discovery and encounters with a large cast of eccentrics.
The tone of the writing is both intimate and sweeping in scope, and the overall effect is deeply satisfying.
(First published by Rye Field Publishing Co., Taipei, in 2015. Published in English in 2017 by The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne. Translated by Darryl Sterk)