Old School

Pieterskerkhof 4-A, Leiden


Universiteit Leiden, Taiwan Academy, Ministry of Culture

31 October - In-between-ness in non/places

Known as the author of the two novels The Waiting Room (等候室) and A Traveller’s Guide to Ride-Sharing (鐵道共乘旅遊手冊), Tsou Yung-Shan is a contemporary Taiwanese writer concerned with the issues of public spaces and the human state of mind. Her prize-winning short story Three-way Crossroad (三岔路, translated in Dutch as Driesprong) places special emphasis on observing others and being observed.


Reflecting the ideas of non-places of anthropologist Marc Augé, Tsou is currently dedicated to a new writing project, Ave Maria (萬福瑪麗亞). This novel forms a conclusion to her focus in writing over the past few years. The elements in this on-going novel: airports, train stations and hotels, are regarded as non-places, and they are not only the places in which contemporary people move, but also the podium on which people are being gazed upon. Tsou treats “in-between-ness” as the state of travellers.


One of the traits of non-places is lack of unique characters. Being in a multicultural environment means people will possibly develop different identities as well. However, do people in non-places also lack personality because they are being gazed upon not only by ubiquitous surveillance cameras but also others by around them? How does a single space blend heterogeneous cultures?
Tsou is going to discuss her perspectives on in-between-ness in places and non-places. The multiple hyphens in the title imply the idea of transferring as well: step by step, station by station. Tsou observes and depicts these contemporary metropolitan landscapes that build contemporary human minds. Tsou’s novel project is also dedicated to showing how people face themselves in a multicultural context—either in a foreign country or in a place that should be familiar.
Mathilda Banfield, the Dutch translator of Three-way Crossroad, will join the conversation to probe the perspective of a translator as an agent, sharing another angle of gazing the Tsou’s characters in Three-way Crossroad.

Time: 20.00 – 22.00 hrs.