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The Man with the Compound Eyes

por Wu Ming-Yi

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1232173,892 (3.73)6
"The English-language debut of an exciting new award-winning voice from Taiwan--a stunning novel that is at once fantasy, reality, and dystopian environmental saga, in which the lives of two people from very different worlds intertwine under the shadow of a man-made catastrophe. On the mythical island of Wayo-Wayo, young Atile'i has just seen his 180th full moon and, following the tradition of his people, is sent out alone into the vast Pacific as a sacrifice to the Sea God. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, he happens upon a new home--a vast island made of trash. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Alice, a professor of literature, is preparing to commit suicide following the disappearance of her husband and son. But her plans are put on hold when the trash island collides with the Taiwan coast where Alice lives. Her home is destroyed, but meeting Atile'i gives her life new meaning as they set out to solve the mystery of her lost family. Drawing in the narratives of others impacted by the disaster--Alice's friends and neighbors, environmentalists from abroad, the mysterious man with compound eyes--the novel tells an enthralling, surreal story of the known--and unknown--world around us"--… (mais)
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The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi is a recommended novel that weaves magic realism into a novel with an environmental message.

Originally published in Taiwan, the narrative of The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi follows two very different people, Atile’i and Alice. Atile’i, is an exiled teen from the Wayo Wayoan tribe, who "thought the whole world was but a single island."Atile'i shared the fate of every Wayo Wayoan second son - he is exiled and sent off into the ocean in a canoe and expected to die. Instead he finds himself living on an island made of garbage. Alice Shih is a grieving mother in Taiwan who "got up early one morning and decided to kill herself." When a massive earthquake hits, she goes back to sleep with the thought that she was planning to die anyway. Rather than dying "She got up, looked out the window, and found herself standing on a remote island in the midst of an immense ocean, as frothy waves rolled relentlessly across the distance toward the shore."

The narration of the story switches between Atile’i and Alice. The two find themselves together when a tsunami causes the garbage island to collide with Taiwan. The two form a family-like bond and go on to meet a cast of others. Included is a dose of magic realism, surrealism, share cultural stories and myths, and a very pro-environmentalism message. It is very much concerned with the relationship people have with each other and especially with the earth. The progression of the narrative is not in a linear fashion, but instead has memories and stories intertwined with the plot development.

While The Man with the Compound Eyes is well written and the translation seems to capture some of the lyricism that must be present in the original version, it is also not an easy, quick read as it will take some time and dedication to start to understand the rhythm of the book and the flow of the plot. Those who enjoy hearing stories and folk lore from other cultures and magic realism will likely appreciate this book. The overwhelming arching theme, however, is that we are destroying our environment, so if that will upset you, pass this one up.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Not quite surreal. ( )
  gregandlarry | Mar 14, 2015 |
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"The English-language debut of an exciting new award-winning voice from Taiwan--a stunning novel that is at once fantasy, reality, and dystopian environmental saga, in which the lives of two people from very different worlds intertwine under the shadow of a man-made catastrophe. On the mythical island of Wayo-Wayo, young Atile'i has just seen his 180th full moon and, following the tradition of his people, is sent out alone into the vast Pacific as a sacrifice to the Sea God. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, he happens upon a new home--a vast island made of trash. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Alice, a professor of literature, is preparing to commit suicide following the disappearance of her husband and son. But her plans are put on hold when the trash island collides with the Taiwan coast where Alice lives. Her home is destroyed, but meeting Atile'i gives her life new meaning as they set out to solve the mystery of her lost family. Drawing in the narratives of others impacted by the disaster--Alice's friends and neighbors, environmentalists from abroad, the mysterious man with compound eyes--the novel tells an enthralling, surreal story of the known--and unknown--world around us"--

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