Hunter School by Sakinu Ahronglong

Translator: Darryl Sterk

The cover to Hunter School by Sakinu AhronglongLondon. Honford Star. 2020. 182 pages.

WHAT IS LOCAL IDENTITY? What have we lost in the name of development? How do we best pass on traditional culture to the next generation? Nowadays, many local cultures have been inundated by industrial society, and the preservation and inheritance of local culture resonates as a thought-provoking theme. In Hunter School, Sakinu Ahronglong is trying to wake up his people, his village, and everyone he knows.

Sakinu is an indigenous Taiwanese of the Paiwan ethnic group with a strong sense of local identity. His debut book, Hunter School, is an autobiography in three parts: “A Paiwan Boyhood”; “Indigenous Trajectories”; and “Reclaiming What Was Lost.” Learning from his grandfather, his father, and his childhood experiences, Sakinu discusses the principle of coexistence between man and animal, man and nature, and the truth of sharing and mutual benefit.

Hunter School is a wonderful reflection of original Paiwan life. Paiwanese have their own language and the pacer snake as their special totem. They live in traditional slate houses with their elders. People live in harmony with nature and learn everything from it. They talk with trees, grass, and animals, treating every creature in nature as a fellow person. They have their own moral code: to have respect for life and reverence for nature. If they fail to obey the laws, they will be punished by their ancestors and nature.

Hunter School is not just a series of stories that offer insight into the Paiwan culture. It is engaging and culturally conscious, guiding you to think deeply about the loss of culture around you. Should we protect our own culture? Should we get back our cultural identity? With the invasion of foreign culture, civilization becomes the main focus of culture while the tribespeople are denigrated as savages. Their land is not their land anymore. Witnessing the disappearance of his native culture, Sakinu is determined to get back their ethnic identity. He founded a “Hunter School” to help young people reconnect with their original culture.

The launch of the English edition of Hunter School brings Sakinu into the English reader’s eyes. Darryl Sterk’s translation is great. He is a leading Chinese-to-English translator who has translated several Chinese books into English and was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize for his translation of The Stolen Bicycle, by Wu Ming-Yi. His transliteration and clear explanations of Paiwan language are excellent and intriguing. The author’s emotions are perfectly displayed, giving you the feeling you are reading the original work. The stories in the collection are reordered to make them more readable for foreign audiences. Translation is not only about the transfer of language but also the transfer of culture and emotion; Sterk’s translation is lovely in this aspect.

Zhu Yunhui
Nanjing Normal University

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