Friday, March 30, 2007

The Ideology of Democracy

Today I received this in the mail from Su Beng. It's his latest book, the title of which I'll translate as The Ideology of Democracy (民主主義).

For the past half year or so I have had less access to him because he was hard at work trying to finish this book.

In the forward of this book, The Ideology of Democracy (民主主義), Su Beng writes that he started writing his memoirs because he felt that many have misunderstood and misjudged him, but while in the midst of this, he realized that he couldn't complete his memoirs yet because he needed to write this book about democracy first.

Su Beng has published another book and here I am still working on writing the English version of his biography. Onwards I tread- doing the best that I can, alas, writing this biography and documenting Su Beng's life is not actually my full-time job, nor is it my only job.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Grand plans

My first interview with Su Beng wouldn't be until August of 2004. In the beginning I had a very simple motivation- curiosity, but the more I thought about it, the more I became thoroughly convinced that there was a story worth telling here. That summer I went back to the States for my annual visit and consulted some trusted friends about my ideas and motivations for writing this story. Fortunately, one friend in particular had the foresight to advise me to video record all of my conversations with Su Beng. I had only planned to audio record our meetings for later reference- when I'd begin writing. What did I know about camcorders, video recording, camera angles or lighting?

From the beginning I had a lot of grand plans for this story, but I had no idea how it would mushroom.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's in a name?

If you haven't already noticed, this image, which is used in this blog's profile, consists of the stylized Chinese characters: 史明 in the shape of the main island of Taiwan.

史明 is the pen name that Su Beng used for the first version of Taiwan's 400 Year History, which was written in Japanese and published in 1962. A larger, more complete Chinese version was first published in 1980 and an English abridged version was published in 1986.

In choosing his pen name, Su Beng wanted to express his motivation for writing Taiwan’s 400 Year History. Su Beng believes that once the Taiwanese people understand their unique history, they will be able to know where they have come from, who they are, and what they want for themselves and their nation. The two characters which make up his name are 史 (Hoklo Taiwanese language: sú, Pinyin: shĭ), which means history and 明 (Hoklo Taiwanese language: bêng, Pinyin: míng), which means clear. Taken together, these two characters can interpreted to mean, "history clearly", "clear history" or "to know history clearly."

史明 is roughly pronounced as "Su Bing" in Hoklo Taiwanese, which is Su Beng's native language. For this reason, I have chosen to use the Hoklo Taiwanese romanization: Su Beng, which has been used in many English translations of Su Beng's writings, rather than the Mandarin Chinese pinyin: Shi Ming.