An Empty Room- Mu Xin

 

 

“Whoever first thought of imposing a library fine was indeed intelligent.” -Mu Xin- Tomorrow, I’ll Stroll No More

I’m so glad I picked up this book up! On my endeavour to read more Chinese literature I just pick them up randomly from the library because I really have no knowledge of Chinese authors. It turns out I chose well this time. This is a collection of 13 short stories by Chinese author and artist Mu Xin who lived outside of China for many years and was also a political prisoner under Mao.

The stories were pretty simple, starting from the ones at the beginning that detail early childhood observations, to the latter that are written by a protagonist later in life. The collection features stories the author wrote while abroad. To be honest, I preferred those stories; I found them more thoughtful and poignant, obviously seen through the eyes of a visitor and therefore seeing more. My favourite was “Spring in Weimar”:

“In the temperate zone, at the start of each season, a sacred aura delicately begins to insinuate itself in the wind. While winter lingers on, spring’s cold air feels tender and moist as it stirs up private, fleeting memories. Each passing day silently acknowledges the change of seasons so that the beginning of Spring is received with paramount propriety and somberness.”

Springtime in Vancouver
Springtime in Vancouver

“Notes from the Underground” was great too, autobiographical, made up of Xin’s secret writings which he wrote while being imprisoned in Shanghai for 10 months for being an “intellectual with decadent thoughts.”

“When catastrophe sweeps through your political life, economic condition, love life, or your pursuit of art, you are reduced to a miserable and ridiculous state of existence. Your patience and endurance are not enough for you to overcome the adversity. Consequently, you are forced into the underground, that is you have to fight even if you don’t want to (as you must live to avoid death).”

I was curious about the author’s life especially his life as an artist during the cultural revolution and I came across this really great short video: http://vimeo.com/34971591

And a link about his art: http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/020124/muxin.shtml

 

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