My Chinese lessons. By Gao Xingjian

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A first Chinese author I read had to be discovered on the Noble Prize for Literature list. I chose “Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather: Stories”

After Herta Muller and Doris Lessing I developed a taste for emigrés writings. Their personal experience is rooted in the depth of a human emotion associated with forced alienation, revealing the strength and vulnerability of human existence, along with tributes paid to the haunting power of memory.   

I chose a stories book. And it was worth it. The experience is similar to taking six trips in one-go. The author is an excellent guide. He will take you to “The Temple”, which is a projection of a shield to protect the happiness of newlyweds against persistent anxiety. “The Cramp” is pointing at the fragility of life illustrated by a swimmer’s fight for life and the awakening awareness of he’s unnoticed absence and struggle.  The “Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather” is an attempt to relieve homesickness.514MJSJHYPL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

The stories are full of lessons to take away, which will stay with me for a while at least:

Lesson of recompense: “how can we repay you? With some candies and cigarettes? No, we are repaying you with our happiness”.

Lesson of appreciation for small gestures “Fangfang took a bite of the melon he gave us and smiled at me to indicate that he was a good man. There are, in fact, man good people in the world”.

Lesson on deception and love “I feel sorry for her”. “Feeling sorry is not love. If you don’t love her, don’t go on deceiving her!”. “ I’ve only even deceived myself”. That’s also deceiving the other person.”

Lesson on harmony “The silky, tender, new green leaves on the white poplar shimmer in the glow of the streetlight”.

Lesson on writing “Of course a traffic accident can serve as an item for a newspaper. And it can serve as the raw material for literature when it is supplemented by the imagination and written up as a moving narrative: this would then be creation”.

Lesson on getting older “I told her people didn’t do this sort of work anymore and that she’d had the mat so long, she might as well buy a new one, but my grandmother didn’t see it that way and always said the older, the better. It was like her: the older she got, the kinder she became and the more she had to say, by repeating herself”.

Lesson on good&evil “Humans have a propensity for evil and that evil is more deeply rooted than good in human nature. You like to believe in the goodness of people. People just wouldn’t be so mean as to deliberately trample the memories of the your childhood worth remembering. ”

Lesson on peaceful loneliness “Are your lonely? In this world, yes. What other world is there? That inner world of yours that others can’t see. Do you have an inner world? I hope so. It’s only there that you can really be yourself”.

What were your Chinese lessons?

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