Latest book by French writer Bourgault features Taiwan protagonist
PARIS, March 18 (CNA) – French author Pierrick Bourgault’s latest novel is about a Taiwanese character who faces various challenges as an expatriate in France.
The novel, titled Journal d’un café de campagne, tells the story of two 40-year-olds, a Taiwanese woman named Lin and her French husband Yann, who move to a small town about two hours by train from Paris to work there to open a cafe.
One of the biggest obstacles they face is keeping their small business afloat in a rural area typically plagued by anti-business bureaucracies.
At a promotional event at a Paris bistro on March 6, attended by Taiwan’s top envoy to Paris, François Wu (吳志中), and director of the Taiwan Cultural Center in France, Hu Ching-fang (胡晴舫), Bourgault said he developed the story based on this story through his own observations of the plight of young dream hunters in France, where people try to move from the urban centers to more provincial areas but are often hampered by local government regulations.
He chose a Taiwanese character as the main character for his novel, so parallels can be drawn between a country that encourages entrepreneurship in rural areas and a country that discourages such ideas.
Bourgault visited the Asian country in 2012 and went on an island-wide tour by scooter.
“When I first wrote his novel, I was looking for a country that could stand shoulder to shoulder and compare and contrast with France,” he said. “Taiwan is a highly developed country whose citizens are democratically independent and therefore very suitable for storytelling.”
Speaking to CNA at the event, he said the character Lin was chosen to examine French traditions from an immigrant’s perspective while introducing French readers to various aspects of Taiwanese culture.
“From what I observed while visiting Taiwan, I think Taiwanese women are steadfast and affable,” Bourgault said. “They will definitely speak their minds, but will not deliberately create conflict. They are also gentle but determined when it comes to determining what they want, which are admirable traits.”
He said one of the most memorable aspects of his visit to Taiwan was seeing many highly educated youth returning home to the rural areas to apply their skills and expertise in agriculture, arts and culture, including crafts.
It appears that Taiwan has taken steps to improve the working environment in rural areas over the past 10 years, which is quite rare in France, Bourgault said. “In France, you either own a humble boutique or you own a huge conglomerate,” he said.
While working-age people in France want to develop artistic spaces and run cafes and restaurants in the countryside, they are put off by bureaucracy, he explained.
“To me, Taiwan represents more freedom and easier access for the younger generation to become creative entrepreneurs, and my book honors those qualities,” Bourgault said. “I use my story to criticize France’s bureaucracy in this regard.”
When asked about a possible return to Taiwan, Bougault said he hopes to visit Taiwan again to explore the eastern part of the island and learn about the local indigenous cultures, adding that he is currently planning a photo book about the restaurants, cafes and cuisines of the world that will include Taiwan.