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
both loved culture
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.