Taiwan: Crocodiles in Human Skins

I did not have any preferences to what kind of a book I would like to find from Taiwan, and just by browsing the selection at my library I found something a bit different, Notes from a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin. I usually do not pay attention to if I read LGBTQ literature or not, since personally it does not make a difference to me. This time around it could not be missed, because of the rainbow flag on the book, and then I read a bit about the author, who was a lesbian. She committed suicide at the early age of 26 in 1995, The book is a cult classic, apparently.

The book is set in the late 1980s in Taipei. It is about a group of youngsters doing pretty much everything else than studying at their university. The narrator is Lazi, and she is attracted to an older woman who sometimes shows Lazi her good side, sometimes her other side. It is a love story that will never lead anywhere. Lazi has a colorful circle of friends, all fighting their own fights, trying to find themselves and their place in the world.

At times it gets a bit weird with the crocodiles presented as humans (I figure she means the queers; it is the 80s after all). The are outside the ‘accepted’ society, but they are still there, living their lives. The book focuses on depression and sexual minorities, which is understandable, since I believe she sees herself as one of these depressed crocodiles.

The book is narrated in eight sets of notebooks, and they include letters, criticism, aphorisms, diaries, and vignettes. I am not a fan of these mixes, and when you are trying to figure out what is happening in between, it can get a bit confusing. I can understand that growing up to become a proper adult when not really understanding the world or yourself is hard, but there was a bit too much angst for me. However, there are bits of optimism and idealism in her writing, and I hope she felt liberated when writing this book.

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