Synopses & Reviews
(1969–1995) was a Taiwanese novelist. Her unapologetically lesbian sensibility has had a profound and lasting influence on queer literature in Taiwan. She worked in Taiwan before moving in 1994 to Paris, where she pursued graduate studies in clinical psychology and feminism at the University of Paris VIII. A year later she committed suicide.
Ari Larissa Heinrich is Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, San Diego, and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Sydney in Chinese studies.
"The reception of this short novel, which is considered a high point in Taiwanese LGBT fiction, will unavoidably be colored by Qiu's suicide in 1995, at age 26 (the book was written just before her death and posthumously published in Taiwanese). Her memorable dedication reads, 'For dead little Bunny and Myself, soon dead.' As Heinrich, the translator, explains in the afterword, the book's spiraling, plotless structure mirrors Qiu's increasingly intense last days. Written in the form of letters, the novel vacillates between romantic ecstasy and despair, while a coherent story slowly emerges. As the unnamed narrator pursues graduate studies in France, she grows increasingly alienated from her lovers and family still living in Taiwan. She feels adrift and alone without the love of her life, Xu, and without Bunny, the pet rabbit they cared for together, and she seeks relief from her overwhelming pain: 'I long to lie down quietly by the banks of a blue lake and die.' Qiu's voice, both colloquial and metaphysical, enchants even as she writes from the familiar perspective of a spurned lover. It would be wrong to interpret the book's or, for that matter, the author's ultimate surrender to death as a rejection of the richness of life; rather, like Goethe's young Werther, this 'last testament' (an alternative translation of the title) affirms the power of literature. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
An NYRB Classics Original
When the pioneering Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin committed suicide in 1995 at age twenty-six, she left behind her unpublished masterpiece, Last Words from Montmartre. Unfolding through a series of letters written by an unnamed narrator, Last Words tells the story of a passionate relationship between two young women—their sexual awakening, their gradual breakup, and the devastating aftermath of their broken love. In a style that veers between extremes, from self-deprecation to pathos, compulsive repetition to rhapsodic musings, reticence to vulnerability, Qiu’s genre-bending novel is at once a psychological thriller, a sublime romance, and the author’s own suicide note.
The letters (which, Qiu tells us, can be read in any order) leap between Paris, Taipei, and Tokyo. They display wrenching insights into what it means to live between cultures, languages, and genders—until the genderless character Zoë appears, and the narrator’s spiritual and physical identity is transformed. As powerfully raw and transcendent as Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Theresa Cha’s Dictée, to name but a few, Last Words from Montmartre proves Qiu Miaojin to be one of the finest experimentalists and modernist Chinese-language writers of our generation.