A man who has come from very little, from poverty and loss, not only finds himself a beautiful wife, but also a job in the vein of car sales, excelling in this field. When she vanishes without a trace, he sets up a small café in her favourite spot on the edge of the South China Sea, hoping that one day she’ll return.
Ting Kuo-Wang’s English debut, My Enemy’s Cherry Tree is a beautiful and yet tragic tale of love and loss. First published in 2015, this novel has already won all major Taiwanese literary awards and is set to make it into the English literary scene, with a great deal of hype. This version, translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-Chun, is for the most part beautifully translated, but can occasionally feel clunky at parts. I would say for the most part that reading this novel can often feel a little like reading a Thomas Hardy text. Everything is so wonderfully described that it’s often difficult to take a step back from this beauty to see what is really going on.
As the story unfolds, the protagonist is confronted by the man he suspects may be responsible for all of his losses: Luo Yiming, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who has a great degree of power over the time and in the short time they spend together, Luo is driven mad. It’s a painful tale to read at times, and it is probably for those that like to read stories of agony, modestly brought about with time.
My Enemy’s Cherry Tree is truly a story of desire and betrayal set against the tumultuous first decade of Taiwan’s 21st Century. The recipient of all three of Taiwan’s major literary prizes, My Enemy’s Cherry Tree incorporates love, money and coercion into the tale. Two men who have both sought to acquire something unattainable, instead lose something of a greater value, and with it, lose more than they could ever hope to dream. A poetically descriptive journey, it’s beautifully told, but at times it is often easy to get lost in the imagery, unsure of precisely where you are in the plot. It takes a few re-reads to find yourself back knowing. But once you are knowing there is much to take on board and upsetting to realise the tragedy. The anticipation for this release in English is somewhat understandable and it will be more than interesting to see how it’s received.
My Enemy’s Cherry Tree is available from 4th April, published by Granta.