Notes of a Crocodile

This English translation of Notes of a Crocodile aptly captures the extraordinary intelligence and sensibility of celebrated Taiwanese lesbian writer Qiu Miaojin (Last Words from Montmartre).

The novel focuses on a cadre of queer college students in Taipei, who form tenuous bonds of friendship--often evolving into eroticism--in the face of a society that, left unchallenged, would homogenize and flatten their personalities. At the center of this group is Lazi, the narrator, who struggles to control her desire for women she falls in love with, as well her own volatile sense of identity. Cleverly layered between Lazi's notebooks and diaries are satirical passages describing the hardships of a newly discovered crocodile who is trying to adjust to human society. In this way, Miaojin lends the queer experience a Kafkaesque strangeness, as the protagonist's alienation is embodied in a giant lizard.

But it is Lazi's candid, painfully self-conscious voice--not the crocodile's--that distinguishes this novel as a great work of literature. For Miaojin holds nothing back in her exploration of young love. She catches the fluid dynamics of relationships with nuance and uncanny precision: "the two of us would come to cherish our ambiguous rapport, at once intimate and unfamiliar, and tempered by moments of silent confrontation." In turn, such nuance is shaken by raw and visceral imagery--"dying beasts incapable of licking each other's wounds"--that lays the heart bare in manifold joy and torment.

Notes of a Crocodile is a powerful coming-of-age story about falling in love and loving oneself in an unjust world. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

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