Archive for the ‘October 2012’ Category

再说中国新诗 300 首 (中英对照) 300 Modern and Contemporary Chinese Poems (Chinese-English)

十一月 15, 2012

再说中国新诗 300 首 (中英对照)
Lucas Klein, translator of Xi Chuan 西川, has commented on 野鬼’s new anthology of 300 Modern and Contemporary Chinese Poems (Chinese-English) 中国新诗 300 首 (中英对照). Lucas Klein’s blog is called Notes on the Mosquito, like his new Xi Chuan translations compilation. Notes on the Mosquito as a title reminds me of Bei Dao’s 北岛 Harvest 收获, don’t know if that is intended.

There is Zhang Xinying’s 张新颖 fine anthology 中國新詩 from 2000 (in Chinese), incl. 2 interesting poems by Zhou Zuoren 周作人. Zhang has close to 100 poets and up to 10 poems from each of them. If you cover the last 30 or 40 years, it would have to be rather thick to include at least ten or twenty examples each from 食指、芒克、多多、楊煉、于堅、韓東、西川、伊沙等等,to mention only a few older living males.

My favorite contemporary anthology is 黃梁’s 大陸先鋒詩叢. 10 volumes came out in 1998/1999 – Bai Hua 柏华、Zhu Wen 朱文、Meng Lang 孟浪 etc. 等等. Another 10 came out in 2009, incl. Tibet’s poetess and dissident blogger Woeser 唯色, migrant worker poetess Zheng Xiaoqiong 郑小琼(鄭小瓊), and a few more not-so-well-known poets like Pang Pei 庞培(born 1962).

The new 300-poems-anthology is Chinese-English, but it seems the English versions will all be done by Chinese translators. Some translators could be native speakers of English, and/or writing poetry in English. But it does look like an inner-Chinese project, so to speak. The Chinese Issue of The Drunken Boat from 2006 provides a very broad spectrum in the categories minorities, gender and localities in Asia and beyond. Xi Chuan is prominently featured. The 2008 China issue of The Atlantic Review also has an interesting mixture and beautiful poems, incl. Xi Chuan. But these two anthologies are all in English. In my earlier blog post on this topic of anthologies I have written about the advantages of starting from women writers and minorities. That was in Chinese, sorry.

Huang Liang is operating in Taiwan, but he still had some trouble with Mainland authorities about meeting and publishing Woeser 唯色. The 300 modern poems anthology includes the blind folk singer Zhou Yunpeng 周云蓬, who is also in the 10/19/12 New Statesman issue curated by Ai Weiwei, along with Zuoxiao Zuzhou 左小祖咒. On the other hand, compiler Diablo 野鬼 (Zhao Siyun 赵思云 is not the editor) told me they could never include Li Qin’an’s 李勤安 When Martial Law Was Lifted 解嚴以後, because with books you have to worry much more about (self-)censorship than online. I think When Martial Law Was Lifted 解嚴以後 is a landmark poem in any sense. I like Xi Chuan’s poetry very much, but on the whole now and then it needs to be complemented with something more explicitly political. Actually you could say the same about Hsia Yu 夏宇, maybe. Anyway, Li Qin’an 李勤安 still sounds relevant in Taiwan today, according to some of my friends there. On the Mainland, the role(s) of poetry are more acutely questioned, also by Zhao Siyun 赵思云 and Diablo 野鬼 (Zhang Zhi 张智), for example. See Diablo 野鬼’s “非诗” and Zhao Siyun’s Lili’s Story 丽丽传.

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Dieses Leben: 今生:Erinnerung & Liebe 愛和記憶

十一月 3, 2012

It was great. Lai Hsiangyin 賴香吟 read part of her story about a member of a former underground movement who has to confront his own weakness when his divorced wife needs his attention. I read Julia Buddeberg’s translation. Chen Kohua 陳克華 read three poems. First came Nothing 無, very Buddhist. Then a couple of last things. The last café 最後的咖啡館. The last motel 最後的汽車旅館. Very Taiwanese kind of motel dive. Secrete details, medical details, scientific details included in all three poems. Questions and answers. Audience members asked a few questions, and we had an interesting discussion. How and why did Ms. Lai write the story? What comes first, life or politics? And so on. Students, immigrants, veterans maybe, of Taiwan politics. Chinese Studies, East Asian Studies Institute, Vienna University 維也納大學東亞文化系. Austrian PEN. Two days in Vienna. Two nights. 維也納卌八小時左右。Arriving, getting lost on the airport. Translator’s fault. Translator’s idea, the whole thing. Not lucrative. I am sorry. Not smooth. Interesting, yes. Freezing. Exhausting. Fun. Fruitful, hopefully. Thanks very much! To the organizers. Thank you! Everyone who helped us. But above all 賴香吟、陳克華多謝!辛苦你們!Liebe. Liebe und Erinnerung. 愛和記憶。Love and memory. 賴香吟小說的主要題材。維也納很適合你們。柏林也是。柏林比較像現在的台北,相當開放、國際化的。柏林非常重視記憶。維也納的過去其實比柏林可怕,因為沒有柏林那麼公開的重視記憶。

So we had Q&A. Then the encore. We had Vienna in the café, in my translation. Apocalypse. Pouring coffee, to the last. Tabori. Hitler and Freud. Is there a Freud statue? There is his private clinic. Oh well. Statues of Strauss, Beethoven. Vivaldi, very recent. With his orphan students, all girls. Musicians, composers. When Aids broke out in Taiwan, the government forbade intercourse with foreigners. As well as doing it from behind. That’s how Chen Kohua thought of the poem. As a medical man. And risk group member. No intercourse with foreigners, no sex from behind, and we’ll be fine. Right. That’s where the quotation marks in the title come from. Freud and Jelinek. Dreams of Vienna. Love and memory.

陳克華
今生

我清楚看見你由前生向我走近
走入我的來世
再走入來世的來世

可是我只有現在。每當我
無夢地醒來
便擔心要永久地錯過
錯過你,啊–

我想走回到錯誤發生的那一瞬
將畫面停格
讓時間靜止:
你永遠是起身離去的姿勢。
我永遠伸手向你。

1985

Chen Kohua
DIESES LEBEN

Du näherst dich aus meinem früheren Leben.
Ich seh’ dich ganz klar, du gehst in meine Zukunft.
In die Zukunft der Zukunft.

Aber ich hab’ nur die Gegenwart. Wenn ich
traumlos aufwache,
hab’ ich jedesmal die Sorge,
dass ich dich verpasse, für immer —

Ich möchte zurück in den Augenblick des Fehlers,
den Film anhalten,
die Zeit und das Bild:
Für immer stehst du auf, um zu gehen.
Ich streck’ dabei die Arme aus.

1985
Übersetzt von Martin Winter im November 2012

Mo Yan 莫言 and Murakami Haruki 村上春樹 (二)

十月 22, 2012

I want to thank Charles Laughlin for his recent posts on the MCLC list and on Facebook. His conclusion included these words: “Mo Yan’s critics are expecting the same of him that Mao Zedong would have: the political subservience of writers and their responsibility to serve as the political conscience of the nation”. Now I have written another blog post about this. 罗老师多谢!
Mo Yan’s 莫言 situation is ironic, as Charles Laughlin says. But serving “as the political conscience of the nation” is not the same as “political subservience”. It is rather the opposite. As we know, Murakami Haruki 村上春树 and his colleagues can be “the political conscience” of Japan, making “politically progressive gestures”, but Chinese writers in China, because of “political subservience” cannot be “the political conscience of the nation”, except obliquely in their fiction, poetry etc. Or in the first few days after they win a Nobel.

Along with Charles and many other people I am very glad that after Mo Yan was announced as a Nobel winner, he finally felt up to, or forced to open his mouth as a public intellectual, in contrast to the meaning of his pen name. Now he can be a public figure, like Murakami in Japan, not just an ambivalent functionary and a reclusive writer. Or can he? Is he going to say anything more on China-Japan relations or political prisoners? Is he going to mention Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波 in Stockholm? He will certainly be asked about other Chinese Nobel winners. That’s the nature of this particular prize, whether you like it or not.

Murakami and his colleagues can “serve” as public intellectuals, when their conscience tells them to do something additional to their writing. The irony is that under CCP 中国共产党 rule, there are no public intellectuals in China. There are occasional trouble-makers and commentators, like Ai Weiwei 艾未未 and Murong Xuecun 慕容雪村, Yu Hua 余华 and Wang Shuo 王朔. But can any of them speak their mind in public at length about Sino-Japanese relations or other sensitive topics? Apart from these writers and artists, there are professors like Cui Weiping 崔卫平, who issued the call to turn back to reason in Sino-Japanese relations, which got censored on Sina Weibo 新浪微波. She has often been prevented from traveling abroad. And there are some civil rights lawyers, who sometimes disappear.

Murakami and his colleagues can “serve as the political conscience” of Japanese society in and out of their books. Mo Yan has to be very circumspect with his topics. The Garlic Ballads was censored and supressed for a while. Mao’s “Talks” 讲话 at the “Yan’an Forum” 延安文艺座谈会 helped to make sure writers and artists could not speak their conscience. Vague documents like this have played an important role as instruments of obedience inforcement in one-party societies, as Anne Sytske Keijser and Maghiel van Crevel have shown in a recent article in “De Groene Amsterdammer” (10/17/2012). Mo Yan knows about this dilemma. His comments after he won the Nobel, and even some comments before, suggest he cannot find hand-copying and displaying Chairman quotes quite as harmless as Charles. That would be the difference between working with political realities in China and teaching about them in the US. The conditions of these political realities are still determined by largely the same factors as decades ago. As Keijser and Van Crevel put it, Mao’s “Talks” and other directives are up on the shelf, routinely mentioned in speeches by present leaders, and ready to be enforced again as needed. Yes, Mo Yan and his colleagues fought successfully for enough freedom to write great literature. Isn’t that enough? Not outside the realm of fiction, unfortunately. The cultural achievements of the 1980s couldn’t prevent the 1989 crackdown and everything that stays vague and threatening in theory and practice today.

Mo Yan writes “stupendous” novels, as Charles Laughlin says. Yes, he does. His development as a writer was influenced by the threat of starvation, the brutality in the name of revolution, and by the ideology. Yes, including the Yan’an “Talks”, as Charles shows. Now, Charles says, “China’s writers are receiving much-deserved international recognition simply because they are devoting their souls wholly to literary art.” Yes, they do. Liao Yiwu’s 廖亦武 speech in Frankfurt was in Sichuan dialect 四川方言. The text is available on the Internet. Try to find a video not dubbed into German. The German translation was fine, it just wasn’t dialect or even colloquial German. And it didn’t sound half as humble as Liao himself did. Politics made him into the writer, musician, poet and activist he is now. And his temper, his foolhardiness, as he readily admits. Not a hero, as Jonathan Stalling suggested. The German Book Trade’s Peace Prize has often been awarded to writers such as Orhan Pamuk.

The irony is that in theory, as taught by Charles, “Mao Zedong would have” reminded writers of their “responsibility to serve as the political conscience of the nation.” In practice, he silenced them. Virtually all, in time. So there would be no political conscience. That’s what Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four is about. Words like “Ministry of Truth” 真理部 are very well-known in China. 1984 is a vision of the closed world of a one-party state. Some moments of life in other societies can feel just as eerie, like a progressive college professor who turns into a cult leader, as in Murakami’s 1Q84, or, even more so, the perfectly cultured killer with secret roots in Korea. But on the whole, Japan in the 1980’s, evocatively and masterfully portrayed, is not ironic enough for connecting to Orwell’s 1984. I guess Taiwan under martial law 台灣戒嚴, in 1984, could have just made it.

Hu Ping 胡平, elected as independent candidate in Beijing’s Haidian district towards the end of the brief Beijing Spring over 30 years ago, recently circulated an excerpt from Mo’s “Life and Death Are Wearing me Out” (Shengsi pilao 生死疲勞). The novel was already well-known before the Nobel. A land owner who had his head blown off in the land reform in 1950 is born again as a farm animal several times, most famously as a donkey. In this excerpt, the donkey/landlord laments his unreasonable and unnecessarily bloody execution, until the guy who shot him tells him he acted with expressive backing from local and provincial authorities, to make sure the revolution was irreversible. So was it “a matter of historical necessity”? I don’t know what Hu Ping meant by circulating the email that somehow ended up forwarded in my inbox, because I don’t follow Chinese exile communications very closely. To me, the excerpt sounds just as absurd, evocative, tragic and yes, “stupendous”, as Mo Yan’s novels usually do. And thus rather close to Orwell’s 1984, or Wang Xiaobo’s 王小波 2015, in a way. I don’t think most readers would think that the author wants to commend, recommend or even excuse such acts of brutality.

There is another irony. Gao Xingjian 高行健 was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2000 even though, or maybe because, he did not and does not make himself available for political comments. Gao emigrated to France in the late 1980s and rescinded his Party membership in 1989, and it doesn’t seem he wants to come to terms with the powers that be in China in his lifetime. But on the whole, Gao has made about as many explicit political comments in the last 20 years as Yang Mu 楊木.
Chinese writing in 2012 is very complex. At least there is “much-deserved international recognition”, finally. Yu Hua’s essays “China In 10 Words” 《十個詞彙里的中國》 were serialized in the New York Times 紐約時報, among other international papers. And now Yang Mu, Mo Yan and Liao Yiwu appear together in headlines, also in the New York Times. What more could we wish for?

LAI HSIANGYIN AND CHEN KOHUA IN VIENNA

十月 19, 2012

Chen Kohua und Lai Hsiangyin treten am 29. Oktober um 20 Uhr im Hörsaal SIN 1, Ostasieninstitut Universität Wien auf. (Campus Altes AKH, Hof 2, Eingang 2.3)

Übersetzung: Martin Winter

Eine Veranstaltung des Österreichischen P.E.N. – Clubs

Mit Unterstützung des BMUKK

https://erguotou.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/chen-kohua/

Mo Yan and Murakami

十月 16, 2012


I like both Mo Yan’s 莫言 and Murakami Haruki’s 村上春樹 novels. But 1Q84 left me disappointed, although it’s brilliantly written. Great evocation of ordinary lives and neighborhoods. But not very much connection to Orwell. No prison. The two lovers escape at a terrible price. Maybe I sort of hoped neither Mo Yan nor Murakami would get it. Although I think they’re both great writers. Murakami deserves great credit for his political candor, both in some of his novels and otherwise. He recently spoke out for a return to reason in Chinese-Japanese relations. After Mo Yan got the Nobel, he also said something in this direction. Mo Yan has never made political comments before. Now he can do it. So maybe it is a good thing that he got the prize.
Making handwritten copies of the speech that was the reference point for decades of repression in literature is an absurd, shameful act.
On the other hand, Mo Yan’s novels could be called an important continuation of the magical realism tradition. The realism of The Garlic Ballads clearly shows the helplessness of peasants and ordinary people in the 1980s. The Republic of Wine is a fantastically powerful indictment of official corruption. Some other novels have broader historic scope. The stories take place in many different periods, under CCP rule as well as before and even in the 19th century. But they are all fantastic tales of familiar people in villages and small towns. Ma Lan’s 馬蘭 How We Killed a Glove 我們如何殺一隻手套 employs different techniques, but when you are in the middle of reading you also realize the details refer to massacres and tragedies that seem very fantastic in hindsight but which are actually quite familiar still for many people even now. So I have great respect for Mo Yan 莫言 and Tie Ning 鐵凝, even though they chair the Chinese Writer’s Association. They don’t even have Party members in their stories, as far as I recall. There are no chairmen or even higher functionaries at all in recent Chinese literature. There are no vindications of official policy, in contrast to the 1950s and 1960s. As to the Yan’an Talks or Yan’an Forum 延安文藝座談會, it was not really a discussion with different voices being respected. Maghiel van Crevel 克雷 has put the whole context together in his book on Duo Duo 多多 in 1995, on the basis of Bonnie McDougall etc. The Chairman had remarkable rhetoric skill, but it can’t be separated from the context of writers disappearing, getting imprisoned and killed, not to speak of other people, right then and there in 1942, on the grounds of what Mao was saying. It’s not the kind of literary theory you can discuss on its own. Socialist realism with its many facets and developments in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, GDR etc. is certainly worth a great deal of attention and discussion, but it is always very directly connected with politics. In some countries, like the former Soviet Union and China, this connection was compounded by dictators considered as intellectuals. Marxism, Socialism and Communism were taboo in the US for a long time. This kind of repression is still quite visible in the propaganda against Obama, who isn’t really leftist at all. And because of this, literary and social theory have a very strong and special status in US academia. Infatuation with China and/or what was perceived as its politics is an additional factor, also in other countries. When I look at the social and political context of literature in China, I prefer Yu Hua 余華 to Mo Yan. But it’s not that simple. Mo Yan is a soldier, joining the PLA was the only way for him to become a writer. He has done and is doing what is possible in his position, and deserves respect.

LILI’S STORY 麗麗傳

十月 9, 2012

Lili

Zhao Siyun
Lili’s Story

My name is Lili Wu
Nine years old
born in North Zhufeng, Tongshi;
Pingyi County, Linyi City district.
When I was very small
My parents were divorced.
I went to live with Mama and Grandma.
Now I am in 3rd grade at South Fuwan primary school.
I like English.
Got 80% in my last exam.
The math teacher is nice to me.
The ethics teacher is nice to me.
But
I haven’t gone to school for 4 months.
On May 30 this year
During Chinese lesson with our class advisor
Vice-principal Jiang Feng
Called me to the music classroom,
Principal Wang Jiasheng was there, too.
They gave me sweet pills
And took off my pants.
Wang Jiasheng put his weewee into my little hole
When Wang Jiasheng came out
Jiang Feng went in
They told me
Not to tell Mama
Otherwise they wouldn’t let me go to school here
And they would kill me and my mom.
They told me many times.
(Then I must have fainted.
Hearing screams
Class advisor Chen Yongxiang came running.
She pulled up my pants.
Then someone lifted me up
Put me in Wang Jiasheng’s car
And brought me to the clinic on the right side of the gate.
My classmate Xiao Wen wrote all this down on paper.
She said
Other kids saw it too.
On that day
I should have been home at twelve
When I came home at 1:30 p.m
Tottering left and right all the way to our door
Grandma had been waiting on the corner for a long time.
When I was home I wanted to throw up
Didn’t want to eat
Mama wasn’t home
She was at the county hospital visiting a relative
Didn’t come home till the evening
My face, hands and feet were all white
That evening
A nice teacher called Mama
Told her I had been raped by Wang Jiasheng and Jiang Feng
I liked going to school before
Now I don’t dare to go
When school is mentioned I break out in sobs
I am afraid
I took a rest at home for a month
On July 2nd, Mama went with me
To the Pingyi County People’s Hospital for a checkup
The medical record was written a follows
Patient complains of small bleeding in vagina
Accompanied by discharge for over one month.
Recent medical history:
Complains of vaginal pain, red spots, much discharge,
feels like another person forced in his sexual organ
Physical examination:
Normal vulva development
Hymen opening greatly slackened
Old fissures at #3, #8
No other …(I cannot read the writing)
Initial diagnosis:
Hymen ruptured, slackened
Actually
From last winter
I had been bleeding
One day I came home in the evening
There was blood on my legs
I wiped it off with paper
Mama has also helped me wipe it
Last winter
Wang Jiasheng and Jiang Feng
Put their cocks into my little hole several times
After school
I felt dizzy, sick, burning
Mama didn’t know then
She took me to the clinic to get some cold medicine
All winter
I got shots, took pills
Mama went to the police
People’s Police Uncles from the criminal police
Went to Xiao Wen’s home several times
So her folks complained at our house
They said Xiao Wen was frightened
And would hardly dare to go to school
So Xiao Wen said her testimony was instigated by my mom
The teacher who had called my mom that evening
Also denied it
The doctor at the clinic said first I was brought in unconscious
But then they said I came in with the principal and two classmates for checkups and shots
Reporters from the province came to our village
They interviewed six children on their way home from school
Five said they didn’t know anything
Another girl
Did not say a word
Our class advisor said
She took a bribe from my mom
She said my mom made her give false testimony
She said I was in class all day as always
She never pulled up my pants
Over one month later
I had another checkup at Pingyi County People’s Hospital
The results were the same
On Sept. 19th, 2012
Wang Jiasheng declared online
The whole affair was all defamation
Jiang Feng also declared
It was a frame-up, made up
To attain some unspeakable purpose
The Pingyi police
Said conditions were not fulfilled
For prosecution

2012-10-06

Tr. MW Oct. 2012

Source material

report

赵思运//丽丽传/我叫吴丽丽/9岁/出生在临沂市平邑县铜石镇北诸冯村/我很小的时候/爸爸妈妈就离婚了/我一直跟着妈妈姥姥过/现在南阜完小学读三年级/我喜欢英语/考了80分/数学老师对我好/品德老师对我好/但是/我已经4个多月没有上学了//今年5月30日/在上班主任的语文课时/副校长姜锋/把我叫到了音乐教室/校长王加生也在/他们喂我吃糖丸/脱了我的裤子/王加生把他的鸡鸡放到我的窝窝里/王加生出来后/姜锋又进去的/他们跟我说/到家不能告诉俺妈/要不就不让我在这上学了/把我跟俺妈都弄死/这话说过好多次了/(后来我被他们弄得昏迷了/听到喊叫声/班主任沈永祥老师跑过来/给我穿上裤子/然后有人把我扛起来/塞到王加生的车里/送到大门右侧的诊所/这些都是我同学小文后来在纸上写的/她说/班上还有其他小孩看到了)/那天/我原本应该在十二点回家的/一直到下午一点半还未到家/我东斜西歪地回到家门口时/姥姥在路口已经等了很久很久了/回到家我就想吐/不想吃饭/妈妈没有在家/她正在县城医院陪护亲人/直到晚上才回家/我脸和手脚都发白/当晚/学校有位好心的老师曾打电话给妈妈/告诉她我被王加生和姜锋强奸了/本来我很喜欢上学/现在我不敢去学校了/一提上学我就哇哇大哭/害怕/在家休息了一个月/7月2日,妈妈带着我/去平邑县人民医院做了检查/病历诊断是这样写的/主诉:/阴道少量流血,伴分泌物多一个月/现病史:/自述近一个月来,外阴疼,少量见红,分泌物多,觉别人用生殖器强进/体检:/外阴发育正常/阴道处女膜口大松弛/见3点、8点出有陈旧性裂口/其他不……(此处字迹看不清楚)/初步诊断:/处女膜外口破裂松弛/其实/从去年冬天/我下身就出血/有一次晚上回家后/腿上有血/我自己拿纸擦了擦/妈妈也给我擦过/去年冬天/王加生和姜锋/就有几次把鸡鸡放进我的窝窝里/放学的时候/我头晕恶心身子发热/妈妈那时什么都不知道/就带我到诊所开点感冒药/上个冬天/我一直都在打针吃药/妈妈报案了/刑警大队的民警叔叔/几次到过小文家里询问/小文的家人就到我家吵闹/说小文吓得/都快不敢去上学了/小文就说那证词是我妈妈教唆的/那天晚上电话提醒我妈妈的老师/也不承认了/诊所的医生第一次说我是昏迷中去的/后来说是校长跟两个同学陪我去打针看病的/省里的记者到俺村头了/问了6个回家的学生/有5个说不知道/另一个女孩/从头至尾一句话也不说/班主任老师说/她接受了我妈妈的贿赂/说我妈妈让她作伪证/她说我一天都在正常上课/她没有给我穿裤子/一个多月之后/我又到平邑县人民医院做检查/这两次的检查结果是一样的/2012年9月19日/王加生在网上发布声明/说这事纯属污蔑/姜锋也发了声明/说这事是诬告、陷害/是为了达到不可告人的目的/平邑警方/说是条件不足/没有立案/2012年10月6日
素材源自人民网 http://edu.people.com.cn/n/2012/0930/c1006-19159472-1.html

Happy_International_Day_for_the_Blind_Chen_Guangchen!

Moon from train

十月 1, 2012


Sept. 30, 2012

the moon was very big at first
the moon at first was hardly there
we saw it rising from the train
one strip above, one strip below
must be the moon, it will come out
they say it’s very full and round
it doesn’t look a quarter full
the moon comes out, the train moves on
the train is full and rather short
the tired people on the train
the air is bad, the bathroom’s blocked
and then the moon comes out again
the train has crossed the danube bridge
the hiking day was beautiful
the fields, the woods, the paths, the wine
the day was fine, the moon is gone
I hope our friends across the world
are feeling well around the moon.

MW September 2012

moon again

Wann kommt heut der Mond hervor?

As if

月夜穿过丛林 Moonlight going through the woods (Liao Yiwu 廖亦武)

Menschenseele ist Licht des Herrn
Hope you had a happy moon! (Moon 2011 and 9/11)

頑張る

the danube flows

late night wrap

Murong Xuecun, Yu Hua, Liu Zhenyun, Bob Dylan and Rivers of Bablyon

八月 5, 2012

I don’t think Murong Xuecun exaggerates, like one commentator suggested on the MCLC list. Yes, you could encompass many alarming, saddening, embarrassing stories in one speech in other places than China, and people do it all the time, naming names, practices, products. The difference is that in China you will be silenced more swiftly and harshly. Yes, there are exceptions.

Does Mo Yan revel in cruelty like Dan Brown? Does Yu Hua make better use of the cruel parts in his novels? Ok, I’m an interested party, I can’t really say. Would be interesting to analyze in detail. Mo Yan’s novels are great works, at least those I have read, he has written a lot. Deep, cathartic, even accusing use of cruel events and structures. I love Yu Hua’s tone. And I associate Liu Zhenyun in Remember 1942, and Murong Xuecun’s Sky and Autumn speech.

We had Jeremiah in church today, along with that story where a guy goes abroad and gives his gold and silver to his servants. The ones that receive more trade with it, and when their lord comes back, they can give him double. The one who received very little buries it, and when the lord comes back, he digs it out and says, I know you are a harsh governor and reap where you haven’t sown, so I was afraid to lose what you gave me, and kept it double safe. His colleagues get to join the big party, and are rewarded with great posts. He is cast out into the darkness, which is filled with howling and chattering teeth. It’s a horrible story. Yes, it’s a parable, and if you have very little reason for faith, you should still risk it and try to make more, because if you bury it deep in your heart you might lose the little trust you had and received and be cast out into the darkness. But if you are the one who has reason to be afraid, how can you trust your lords? The ones who have more and get more have it easy. Even if they lose everything, they are often rewarded – those powerful managers and functionaries. And if there are enough of those who are cast out, and they get organized, maybe some bishops or other lords might dangle from lamp posts. A Hussite reading, said my wife. Yeah, maybe. No shortage of horrible stories in Chinese literature, like in the Bible.

Jeremiah is even worse, it’s a much bigger story, infinitely more horrible. And there is a detail, not in the Jeremiah parts used in church today, but in the songs in exile. By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, where we wept when we remembered Zion. And in the end the singer wishes, or the singers wish they will one day brutally kill the children of the oppressors. That’s the detail in Murong Xuecun’s speech I was thinking about.

The calling of Jeremiah, where he says he’s too young, and God says he has to go and obey, and open his mouth, and God will put His words into his mouth, and he will be set above nations and kingdoms, so he can pluck out and demolish, ruin and destroy, as well as plant and build. The preacher said she thought of parting and setting off to other posts, and how the Marschallin in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s and Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier sings of what she will have to give up. What a horrible comparison! There is nothing light in Jeremiah. There are no waltzes. Ok, Rivers of Babylon, yes. But with Jeremiah, if you have to mention Austrian writers, Franz Werfel would be much more apt. Werfel was Jewish and used Jeremiah, a lot. Ok, she did mention, much too briefly how nobody would heed Jeremiah, and that it’s actually the most terrible story.

Anyway, when I heard Jeremiah, I thought of Bob Dylan. Masters of War. “How much do I know, to talk out of turn? You might say that I’m young; you might say I’m unlearned. But there is one thing I know, though I’m younger than you, it’s that Jesus would never forgive what you do. […] And I’ll watch while you’re lowered onto your deathbed, and I’ll stand on your grave and make sure that you’re dead.” I don’t know if Dylan thought of Nixon and Kissinger explicitly, when he wrote this song. America’s Vietnam War was raging, and I think the song came out when Nixon and Kissinger where in power. Anyway, there is that Monty Python song about Kissinger. Very explicit. Dylan and Monty Python would not be able to sing these songs in China on stage today, to say nothing about what Chinese artists can do. No, Murong Xuecun doesn’t exaggerate.

x and y

x was cruel

butt is sore

y was able

and suave.

both loved culture

both destroyed

hundred million

butts are cold

MW         March 2007

Yes, I thought of Mao and Nixon, and their sidekicks. But x and y could stand for many people, and could be mentioned anywhere, at least today. Almost anywhere, probably. Anyway, it’s about smoking, you know. Littering. OK, enough for today.


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