Tags: literature



"‘Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved’. All these specific tenses mean Love a time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exist in particular period of time. In Chinese, Love is ‘爱’ (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.

If our love existed in Chinese tense, then it will last for ever. It will be infinite.”

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Guo Xiaolu


"Why have philosphers always spoken of love? That's how philosophy started - No, no. It's not possible. I have an empty head on love in general. And as for the reason philosophy has often spoken of love, I'd either have nothing to say or I'd just be reciting cliches.

One of the first questions one could pose... I'm just searching a bit... is the question of the difference between the who and the what. Is love the love of someone or the love of something? Okay supposing I loved someone. Do I love someone for the absolute singularity of who they are? I love you because you are you. Or do I love your qualities, your beauty, your intelligence? Does one love someone, or does one love something about someone? The difference between the who and the what at the heart of love, separates the heart. It is often said that love is the movement of the heart. Does my heart move because I love someone who is an absolute singularity, or because I love the way that someone is? Often love starts with some type of seduction. One is attracted because the other is like this or like that. Inversely, love is dissapointed and dies when one comes to realise the other person doesnt merit out love. The other person isn't like this or like that. So at the death of love, it appears that one stops loving another not because of who they are, but because they are such and such. That is to say, the history of love, the heart of love, is divided between the who and the what."
- Jacques Derrida

I just want to remember this. I couldn't find it online, so while watching it, I typed this out. There are some things that I don't agree, some philosophies of his that I frown upon and don't understand, but that's what philosophy is about anyway right? I'm fascinated with this idea of love, and how philosophers try to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct it. Intellectuals tear it apart, shred it up and analyse it, but commonfolk just angst over it and make stupid love notes. The contrast is slightly hilarious. The philosophy of it makes my head hurt a little, but I think it makes the entire idea of love a little more fun. I remember when it began and I don't think I will ever forget it.


PLAYER: You are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That's enough.

o - it is not enough. To be told so little - to such an end - and still, finally, to be denied an explanation ---

In our experience, most things end in death.

GUIL (fear, vengeance, scorn): Your experience! -- Actors!

            He snatches a dagger from the
PLAYER's belt and holds the point at the PLAYER's throat: the PLAYER backs and GUIL advances, speaking more quietly.

            I'm talking about death -- and you've never experienced that. And you cannot act it. You die a thousand casual deaths -- with none of that intensity which squeezes out life . . . and no blood runs cold anywhere. Because even as you die you know that you will come back in a different hat. But no one gets up after death -- there is no applause -- there is only silence and some second hand clothes, and that's ---death---

            And he pushes the blade in up to the hilt. The
PLAYER stands with huge, terrible eyes, cluthes at the wound as the blade withdraws: he makes small weeping sounds and falls to his knees, and then right down.

            While he is dying,
GUIL, nervous, high, almost hysterical, wheels on the TRAGEDIANS--

            If we have a destiny, then so had he -- and if this is ours, then that was his -- and if there are no explanations for us, then let there be none for him ----

TRAGEDIANS watch the PLAYER die: they watch with some interest. The PLAYER finally lies still. A short moment of silence. Then the TRAGEDIANS start to applaud with genuine admiration. The PLAYER stands up, brushing himself down.

PLAYER (modestly): Oh, come, come, gentlemen -- no flattery -- it was merely competent ----

TRAGEDIANS are still congratulating him. The PLAYER approaches GUIL, who stands rooted, holding the dagger.

PLAYER: What did you think? (Pause.) You see, it is the kind they do believe in -- it's what is expected.

            He holds his hand out for the dagger.
GUIL slowly puts the point of the dagger on to the PLAYER's hand, and pushes . . . the blade slides back into the handle. The PLAYER smiles, reclaims the dagger.

            For a moment you thought I'd --- cheated.

ROS relieves his own tension with loud nervy laughter.

ROS: Oh, very good! Very good! Took me in completely -- didn't he take you in completely -- (claps his hands). Encore! Encore!

PLAYER (activated, arms spread, the professional) : Deaths for all ages and occassions! Deaths by suspension, convulsion, consumption, incision, execution, asphyxiation and malnutrition --! Climactic carnage, by poison and by steel --! Double deaths by duel -- ! Show! --

            ALFRED, still in his Queen's costime, dies by poison: the PLAYER, with rapier, kills the "KING" and duels with a fourth TRAGEDIAN, inflicting and receivign a wound. The two remaining TRAGEDIANS, the two "SPIES" dressed in the same coats as ROS and GUIL, are stabbed, as before.
            And the light is fading over the deaths which take place right upstage.

            (Dying amid the dying -- tragically; romantically.) So there's an end to that -- it's commonplace: light goes with life, and in the winter of your years the dark comes early . . .

GUL (tired, drained, but still an edge of impatience; over the mime): No . . . No . . . not for us, not like that. Dying is not romantic, and death is not a game which will soon be over . . . Death is not anything . . . Death is not . . It's the absence of presence, nothing more . . . the endless of never coming back . . a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows trough it, it makes no sound . . . .

            The light has gone upstage. Only GUIL and ROS are visible as ROS's clapping falters to silence.


                                            ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD - TOM STOPPARD

It's the same thing. Reading this 20 hours later is equally enlightening as Arcadia. In the middle of the recent hot, hot nights, in the midst of studying and in between the sweaty, sporadic naps, I've been wondering a lot. Gazing out of my window, I know what I can see and what I choose to see. I know what I can afford to lose and what I can't. Or do I?

Eating Pocky now. Om nom.


FRAGMENT EIGHT: Fengfang cuts herself on a piece of glass
                                                and thinks of Xiaolin
    Suddenly the director's chair was a blur of green canvas, flying through the air straight for me. Its path was blocked by the light fixture hanging from the ceiling. The room flashed and pieces of glass danced magnificently in the air. Then the broken chair was lying on the ground. It was over in seconds. All that was left was a mess of glinting fragments on my bed, my desk, my books, my carpet. Xiaolin stood back and admired his master piece.

    "This is the price you have to pay for leaving me," he said. Then he walked out. Oh, I wanted him to die.
    I spent the next two days crawling over my carpet, shaking out my duvet and wiping the surfaces of my shabby furniture as I cleaned up leftovers from the magnificent glass party. I kept finding blood on the bottoms of my feet. For every shard of glass I pulled from my skin, another would find it's way in.

    It was on of these days, as I was extracting a glass from the arch of my foot, that Ben called.

    "Hey, Fenfang, how are you doing? Its eleven o'clock here in Boston. I'm getting ready for bed. What are you up to?"

    I was holding the phone and staring at the piece of glass that I'd just removed from my foot. It glowed in the light from my mobile. "Ben", I said, "I've just been tidying my apartment. I was just cleaning the carpet when you called."

    His voice came back. "Fenfang. I miss you."

    I turned off the phone, and sat still and quiet in my room, my feet resting on the glass splinters stuck in the carpet. I had this great urge to cry, but I didn't want to cry alone. For a really good cry, I needed a man's shoulder.


FRAGMENT NINE: Fengfang sits on the edge of a swimming pool
                                                but doesnt get in

    I've never been to the Sahara Desert, but I don't think it can be that different to a Beijing summer. It was two o'clock in the afternoon and the air in my apartment was hot and stifling. Any moisture in the flat had evaporated weeks ago. I lay on my bed. My body felt dead, my eyes would hardly open. I was vaguely aware of sunlight filtering through the orange curtains and a book in my hand. I lifted my arm and saw a rumpled copy of Kakfa's biography.

    Through the tightly shut window, the sounds of the city were still audible. I could pick out details. A woman shouting. Street sellers hustling. A baby crying unbearably loudly. Some kids playing video games. The sounds were exhausting. I couldn't face the day. I didn't have the energy. Whenever I went out into the street, I would find others living positively and happily. They firmly believed in their lives, while I was always drifting and believed in nothing. I often thought about Huizi's favourite poem, 'Facing the Ocean, the Warmth of Spring is Blossoming'. Its second verse went like this: 

           From tomorrow, I will write to my family
           Tell them I am settled, I am calm
           A warmth will radiate through my life
           It will radiate to everyone in the world
           From tomorrow, each river and each mountain
           Will be given a new and tender name

   Facing the ocean, the warmth of spring will blossom, but only from tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, it would all happen tomorrow. And what about today?
    The sheets were damp with sweat. I needed to get out of my stale apartment. I decided I would go to the local swimming pool. I finally left the bed, and padded around in bare feet until I found a dress in a pile of dirty clothes. It was dull and faded, not a very exciting style. I got my apple-green swimsuit and a pair of goggles, shoved them into a bag and walked out.

    The street was crammed with cars. It seemed ignorant still to be calling China a third-world country when there were traffic jams everywhere in Beijing. It didn't matter if it were morning or afternoon or in the middle of the night, you would always find a sea of trucks and vans and cars - green state-operated cabs, crowded minibuses, private cars with their tan leather interior and dogs on the back seat. But not only was Beijing flooded with cars, it was a city of smoke. A city of smokers. People worried about cancer, but they still kept puffing - many actively, many more passively. You could walk from North Tai Ping Zhuang over to the North Entrance if He Ping Street, and you may as well have smoked your way through two packs of Camels. You smoke the taxi driver's smoke as he spun sharply around a corner, you smoked the local party leader's smoke as he tried to establish order at a meeting, you smoked your boyfriend's smoke whether he loved you or not. Chinese-made cigarettes, foreign imports, dodgy rip-offs. This city was in a permanent fog.

    The fresh air outside might have been practically non-existent, but at least I was heading for the swimming pool. I flagged down a passing taxi and hopped in. Catching a glimpse of myself in the taxi driver's rear-view mirror, I noticed how dry my lips were, and how grey and spotty my skin. A woman who liked like this brought absolutely no colour to a city. However long she sat in a bar of a café, she'd find it impossible to engage the loneliest bastard in conversation. 


                                            20 FRAGMENTS OF A RAVENOUS YOUTH - GUO XIALOU



    Why is the measure of love loss?

    It hasn't rained for three months. The trees are prospecting underground, sending reserves of roots into the dry ground, roots like razors to open any artery of water-fat.

    The grapes have withered on the vine. What should be plump and firm, resisting the touch to give itself in the mouth, is spongy and blistered. Not this year the pleasure of rolling blue grapes between finger and thumb juicing my palm with musk. Even the wasps avoid the brown dribble. Even the wasps this year. It was not always so.

    I am thinking of a certain September: Wood pigeon Red Admiral Yellow Harvest Orange Night. You said, 'I love you'. Why is that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? 'I love you' is always a quotation. You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them. I did worship them and now I am alone on a rock hewn out of my own body.

CALIBAN: You taught me language and my profit on't is
                 I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
                 For learning me your language.

    Love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no. It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid. It is no conservationist love. It is a big game hunger and you are the game. A curse on this game. How can you stick at a game when the rules keep changing? I shall call myself Alice and play croquet with the flamingoes. In Wonderland everyone cheats and love is Wonderland isn't it? Love makes the world go round. Love is blind. All you need is love. Nobody ever died of a broken heart. You'll get over it. It'll be different when we get married. Think of the children. Time is a great healer. Still waiting for Mr Right? Miss Right? and maybe all the little Rights?

    It's the clichés that cause the trouble. A precise emotion seeks a precise expression. If what I feel is not precise then should I call it love? It's so terrifying, love, that all I can do is shove it under a dump bin of pink cuddly toys and send myself a greetings card saying 'Congratulations on your Engagement'. But I am not engaged I am deeply distracted. I am desperately looking the other way so that love won't see me. I want the diluted version, the sloppy language, the insignificant gestures. The saggy armchair of clichés. It's all right, millions of bottoms have sat here before me. The springs are well worn, the fabric smelly and familiar. I don't have to be frightened, look, my grandma and granddad did it, now I will do it won't I, arms outstretched, not to hold you, just to keep my balance, sleepwalking to that armchair. How happy will we be. How happy everyone will be. And they all lived happily ever after.


    Looking out over the courtyard at the dirty walls, he realised he had no idea whether it was hysteria or love.

    And he was distressed that in a situation where a real man would instantly have known how to act, he was vacillating and therefore depriving the most beautiful moments he had ever experienced (kneeling at her bed and thinking he would not survive her death) of their meanings.

    He remained annoyed with himself until he realised that not knowing what he wanted was actually quite natural.

    We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.

    Was it better to be with Tereza or to remain alone?

    There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, "sketch" is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.

    Einmal ist keinmal, says Tomas to himself. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not lived at all.


1029 ; Help Us Stay Alive

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Some things make sense. Some things don't. Some things don't have to make sense. At 3am, when I was re-reading Arcadia again, the lines that I underlined and made notes while finishing it 10 hours ago at the airport made more sense. Certain things unfold. And between that split period where you're wide awake and then sleepy, the thoughts that form and linger are frightening, aspiring, reflective and the stream of conciousness wavers from logical to fanatical. The time when I'm not awake is little, and of late it's been hard to fall asleep on my bed. Yet when day breaks, all I want to do is crawl back into the cupboard. Morning feels like night and the night feels like hell.

474 ; But from death, her ultimate master, she winced with fear and shame

Elizabeth looked up. The man's mouth was fallen back, slightly open under the cover of the moustache. The eyes, half shut, did not show glazed in the obscurity. Life with its smoky burning gone from him, had left him apart and utterly alien to her. In her womb was ice of fear, because of this separate stranger with whom she had been living a one flesh. Was this what it all meant - utter, intact separateness, obscured by heat of living? In dread she turned her face away. The fact was too deadly. There had been nothing between them, yet they had come together. For as she looked at the dead man, her mind cold and detached, said clearly: "Who am I? What have I been doing? I have been fighting a husband who did not exist. He existed all the time. What wrong have I done? What was that I have been living with? There lies the reality, this man." And her soul died in her for fear: she knew she had never seen him, he had never seen her, they had met in the dark and fought in the dark, not knowing whom they met nor whom they fought. And now she saw, and turned silent in seeing. For she had been wrong. She had said he was something he was not; she had felt familiar with him. Whereas he was apart all the while, living as she never lived, feeling as she never felt.

--D.H Lawrence, Odour Of Chrysanthemums

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