Yesterday I had the great opportunity to go and listen to author and illustrator Jimmy Liao (廖幾米) at one of his appearances in Stockholm this fall . Now, for a storyteller as highly regarded as Jimmy Liao he is almost painfully unknown in Sweden. In his native Taiwan children have grown up loving his books for the last two decades and many of his stories been adapted into animated short films or even motion pictures with actors from Taiwan and mainland China.
So far two of Liao’s books have been published in Swedish — Stjärnenatt (The starry starry night, 星空) and Skogens hemligheter (Secrets in the forest, 森林裡的秘密). I profoundly hope these are just the first of many.
My first contact with Liao’s work was a couple of years back when I was living in Colombia. I went to my favorite bookshop and picked out the most beautiful book on display, La piedra azul (The blue stone, den blå stenen, 蓝石头). It has been sitting proudly on the bookshelf above my bed ever since, one of the most beautiful books I own. Naturally I forgot to bring it go get i signed.
The event was hosted at the library in Hässelby Gård where Liao held a 2 hour presentation including live reading, showing of an animated short film and Q&A. He spoke softly and even a novice like me could vaguely understand him speaking in Chinese even though being previously unfamiliar with the Taiwanese accent. I say vaguely with emphasis, as I am immensely grateful for the Swedish interpretation provided consecutively by Sandra Szu.
Over all, it was a magical experience. The book I bought in Spanish in Colombia is still above my bed, I have now shaken hand with the Taiwanese Author, greeted him and thanked him in Chinese, and all of this in a public library in Stockholm, Sweden. Life in funny like that.