Book Review: ‘Taipei Dad, New York Mom’ by Mickey Chen 書評:陳俊志的《台北爸爸/紐約媽媽》

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Initially, I was quite excited by this book, as I’d previously watched a documentary by this late director (I reviewed it here). The book starts off with a moving account of the disintegration of the author’s family and the effect of his sister’s death on him and the larger family.

As the book develops, however, the same story is repeated ad nauseum and seemed almost like the author was trying to impose his own moral interpretation of his riches to rags story on the reader. The tone also seemed more appropriate to the essay format, rather than a long-form novel as he seemed to get a bit lost in his own narration after giving the broad strokes of the initial story. There are interesting aspects to the narrative. In the context of the gay marriage referendum, there has been a shift towards conservatism within the gay movement, and this has led to clashes within the movement, between those attempting to be inclusive to the extent of embracing what they call “chem sex culture” and BDSM fans and those in pursuit of (what their opponents would call) heteronormativity. The author seems pulled by these two conflicting strands of the gay community throughout, which may be what drives his switches between the first and third person at points throughout the book.

I’ve never really been a fan of autobiographies and towards the end of the book, it started to grate on my nerves a bit. The author teases the reader a little by suggesting he’s going to reveal the details of his life, but apart from brief references to a few of his relationships, a disjointed scene where we assume he’s having chem sex, the author’s main purpose throughout the novel seems to be to air the dirty laundry of the rest of his family members, while he maintains a Madonna-like status of victimhood throughout. There’s a lot of anger and resentment in the book, and this comes across in passive-aggressive comments and made the book come across as quite monotonous. Whereas in fictional works like Moonlight, there is a layer of separation between the author/director and the anger of the protagonist towards their family, the first person narrative here left us with nowhere to go, as the author doesn’t seem willing to reflect on the larger social context and systematic problems surrounding his family’s downfall in the same way that Moonlight tries to give the protagonist’s mother a human side.

We almost get to a scene comparable to the scene in Moonlight when the author faces his father’s mortality, but it doesn’t have the same impact for me as the film. Reading the book was almost like listening to someone you don’t know gossip about the people in their life, or someone showing you their family photo album. As a reader, I found it hard to care. Maybe due to the author’s familiarity with his family members, we’re never given a complete picture of them, just who they are as they relate to him, and, frequently, how they’ve victimized him. The central theme of the book is the tragedy that occurs in the author’s childhood. The tone flits between brief moments in which the author portrays something genuinely moving, snarky quips, boasting and wallowing in self-pity. While it’s nice that the author broke up the heaviness of the tragic portrayal of his sister’s death and his family’s disintegration, the other bits of the book felt a little posed, and there was a lot of name-dropping. Essentially they are there to show us what a famous, witty and high-performing luvvie the author is despite the loss of his sister and the break-up of his family home initiated by his father.

If I were to take a more cynical view on the change between the first and third person I mentioned above, it could be seen as an attempt to “be literary”. Combined with certain other comments throughout the book like “The small hole in the back of the intricate doll, now looking back, of course, was a massive symbol for leaving my carefree childhood”, just came across as pretentious attempts to sound educated. I felt this came across in a passage in which the author talks about drug-fueled sexual experiences at the Taiwan Youth Park, and he switches from the first to the third person, reflecting perhaps the disassociation that he feels from taking Ketamine:

一直到青年公園成為台灣gay beach才懂得一枚渾圓無瑕的屁眼是如此的人間至樂。沖澡間總有誘人的底迪無邪地以屁眼向你召喚,一起騎了車吃完建中黑糖剉冰就是如奶蜜甜糖的幹底迪床戲。IKEA夏日涼床上好多美麗的男孩永恆停留在他們高潮來前童稚的眉頭微蹙,屁眼戲劇性地陡地縮緊也忍不住要射了的迷離K世界,我想起古典的英國文學史課堂上那些草原芬芳的下午。男孩們滿足的輕喟很快在你身上趴著睡著,包裹著他們青春身體的甜淡香味,穿透裊裊迴繞的Rush餘韻,直撲鼻端讓我跌入底迪歳月曾經那麼無邪的往事如煙。

老去的男人後來綿延璀璨的性史再也沒法像古典時期那麼甜美可人了。隨手翻到一頁,聞了Rush嗑了E用了勾媚兒的性愛體驗,在鐵皮書裡用最複雜的符碼象徵交互指涉,都難以取代陰莖屁眼乳頭霎時的萬般感受。一沙一世界,蔓延展開成花花天地。 屁眼生出花朵,陽具是燦爛的樹。他感到自己的身體變成一本巨大的鐵皮書,鏤刻著感官的年輪和耳語的密碼。在我耳邊輕輕呢喃,身體就是記憶。

It wasn’t until the Taiwan Youth Park became Taiwan’s gay beach that he understood how much earthly pleasure could be derived from a perfectly round asshole. In the shower rooms there were always seductive twinks, beckoning you over brazenly with their assholes, then after riding a motorcycle together and eating shaved ice with brown sugar from the shop beside Jianguo High School, it was time for the even sweeter treat of fucking them. Lots of pretty boys will remain frozen with their brow slightly furrowed in the childish expression that comes just before an orgasm on an IKEA sun lounger, their assholes suddenly tightening dramatically as I can’t stop myself cumming in that blurry world of K, I thought of the fragrant scent of afternoons on the moors from my English Literature classes. The boys would sigh gently in satisfaction and then cuddle against you to sleep, as you hold their youthful bodies, with their faint sweet smell, with the lingering whiffs of the leftover Rush adding to the mix, and as the smell hits the nostrils you fall into the naivete just like that of youth, and the past goes up in smoke.

As men age, the ongoing resplendent sexual history is never as sweet and innocent as the classical era. Perusing to a certain page, sexual experience with the smell of rush, on E and Foxy Methoxy (5-MEO-Dipt), implying each other’s guilt with the most complex of symbols in an iron corrugated book, it’s hard to replace the myriad momentary sensations of the penis, the asshole and the nipple. The world on a grain of sand, spreading out and blossoming everywhere. A flower blossoms from the asshole, the penis is an awesome tree. He felt his entire body had turned into an iron-clad book, with the age rings of sensation and the codes of whispered nothings. Whispering in my ear, the body is memory itself.

I liked the fact that he inserted an apparently random thought into a sexual experience, as it made it ring truer, but everything the author does seems aimed at proving his extensive learning, which is why the random thought is about his English Literature classes.

In another of the brief interludes where we get a glimpse of the author himself and not just his family, he talks about his sexual relationship with one of his long-term partners:

晚上我們總是到純樸的民家洗澡,一鎖門,老羅和我熾熱摸索彼此。滑膩的肥皂泡沫穿過我們的股溝,我們挺直的陰莖。門外的部隊同儕不耐地敲門問詢,春光乍洩的梁朝偉啐了口水,猛烈進入張國榮,沒有KY,沒有保險套。這是我們最初芬芳的乙醚記憶,在意亂情迷的夏夜,穿透了層層記憶而來。

At night we always went to the rustic local showers. As soon as we locked the door Lao Luo and I would start passionately groping at each other. The soap suds flowed between our buttocks and around our erect cocks. Our army mates would knock impatiently on the door as Tony Leung from Happy Together spits as he enters Leslie Cheung, without any KY, without a condom. This was our diethyl ether-scented first memory, entranced with passion on a Summer evening, and it cuts through layer upon layer of memory to emerge again.

Some of the author’s comments on class are a bit over the top, particularly as he’s aware himself that he’s one generation away from a similar level of poverty. He’s constantly emphasizing how educated he is as a way to elevate himself:

那一年,我和老羅都剛退伍,我繼續在補習班教英文,努力存錢準備出國留學。他是油漆工人,下工後愛喝小酒,和朋友打電動玩具和柏青哥。我們沒有共同的朋友,我討厭他的狐群狗黨,他覺得我的朋友都是外星人。我們兩人一旦吵架,沒有緩衝地帶,沒有調停人,只有兩個人硬碰硬對幹。年輕的我們總是不明白,有些時候,再怎麼深刻的愛情是跨不了階級這一關的。

That year, when Lao Luo and I had just gotten out of the army, I continued to teach English at a cram school, working hard to earn money to study abroad. He worked painting houses, and when he got off work he liked to go for a tipple, and play arcade and pachinko games with his friends. We had no friends in common and I hated the pack of scoundrels he hung out with, whereas he thought all my friends were from another planet. As soon as we started to argue, there was no buffer zone, there was noone to mediate, there was just the two of us clashing hard and going after each other. Young as we were, we didn’t understand that sometimes, no matter how deep the love you feel, it can’t cross the class divide.

One interesting aspect of the narrative is how the mainlander/local Taiwanese division functioned beside class divisions. His father’s family is local Taiwanese, which plays a large part in his father’s rags to riches story. The author’s paternal aunt marries a 「不愛講話的外省老芋仔」 (a taciturn mainlander), who is 30 years older than she is. Another of his paternal aunts manages to escape from a 「wife-beater」only to marry a butcher who starts another family on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. When she goes to confront her husband’s wife in China about this, the fight that results makes the local paper in Guangzhou and the author jokingly refers to it as 「為國爭光」(winning glory for one’s country). The author’s father is said to have a consistently patriarchal attitude to everything that befalls his sisters, even though they are often providing him money to provide him investment for his hair-brained get-rich-quick schemes and bail him out of financial trouble.

Overall, it’s worth a read, although it might wear on your nerves a bit. The author, also a director, passed away recently.

 

 

 

 

海邊

Conor他們已經上了客運要從海邊回到城市。雖然曬傷了,不過身體還沒感覺,只是全身疲憊,終於可以坐下來了很舒服。因為整晚都在眾多篝火之間跳舞、玩水,所以除了體味,J跟K兩個人身上還有一股煙味,混著海水留下的那種腥味。客運坐滿了跟他們一樣過完了篝火節要回城市的人,因此,他們不能跟平常一樣坐在前後兩排的雙人座,隔著椅背講話,只能並坐在同一張椅子上。雖然空間有限,J還是照常地把雙腿張開。K感到J的腿輕輕地貼著自已的腿,臉稍微熱了起來。車離開車站的時候,J已經睡著了,但K還沒有睡意,一直看著窗外。海平線那兒,晨光剛開始流過海面,覺得很美。

K不知道他女生朋友L昨晚什麼時候就不見了。她晚上很直接地跟J調情,接下來一起消失了一陣子,令K遍尋不著。K本來以為他們應該是去上床了,但他們回來後氣氛就變的怪怪的,J在K耳邊說了什麼不配,就婉拒了,但細節K不是很清楚。從那之後,L的表情就一直很臭,大概是生氣了,不過K也不知道他們消失的那段時間到底發生了甚麼事情。他問J,J也只是聳了一下肩膀,就不想理她了。接著他伸出手臂,摟住K的肩膀,把他拉到另外一群圍繞著篝火坐的人那邊,他們便又開始喝了,也沒再談到這件事。那夜沒再看到L,K也沒有特別不開心。

車上,J的頭漸漸地往K的肩膀那邊垂落,隨著J睡得越來越沉,他每次把頭收回去的動作就弱了一些,到最後直接貼著K的肩膀,就停在那裡了。引擎的轉動漸漸騷動K的大腿,讓他開始隱隱有了感覺,他不由自主地瞄了J肌肉發達的小腿,腿毛濃密,再往上看就是短褲的界線,隱約露出那條一邊黧黑、一邊白嫩的曬痕。K心虛地往四周看了一下,就把目光移到J裸裎的上身:結實的胸肌線條、粉紅的奶頭、肚子下方那一條繼續往短褲內奔走的毛,短褲內也可以隱隱看見一個輪廓。K感覺到自己的下體也被叫醒似的,還來不及想到別的事情,就有動靜了。假設J現在醒來,他一定會看到,也會看穿K。但K沒有立刻反應,決定要冒這個險,所幸過了一陣子,J還是睡得很熟,K就把依然腫脹的陰莖勉強塞到他短褲的鬆緊帶下面。

一直照著K的太陽應該對J產生了同一個效果。K發現J的下面也微微有了勃動,J醒了一下,K趕緊閉上眼睛裝睡。J從背包裡拿出一件T恤,蓋住下身,繼續入睡。就這樣子他們回了城市,但K的心還在海邊。

《Less》書評:不如他人

62386248_441367870010315_144654923731042304_n我最近在看一本名為《Less》的同志小說。主角Less是一位年近五十的同志小說家,他在二十幾歳的時候曾經跟一位比他大二十歳的大師級詩人在一起,但他四十幾歳的時候則是跟一位比他小二十歳的青年交往。然而,正當Less要邁入生命的後半段時,那位現在已經三十幾歳的情人找到了跟他年紀相近的伙伴,所以與Less分手。

小說中提到Less那一代人和他這兩位情人分屬的兩代,三代之間在意識形態上的矛盾和對立。詩人的那一代同志甚至不認為自己是同志,也沒有什麼同志歸屬感。詩人本身是雙性戀,沒有公開出櫃,也沒有被文學圈歸類為一名「同志」詩人;比他年輕的那位青年Freddy屬於年輕一代,他們公開承認他們同志的身份,他也善於跟「同志」作家圈社交。

Less的小說在這些年輕世代的圈內作家眼裡,是對同志身份太悲觀的風格。Less本身也有點自卑:他知道他不是天才(不過他跟詩人交往的期間身邊都是天才);跟Freddy交往時,則被視為不夠gay,不如年輕一代以同志身份為傲,也不是對同志圈有責任感的同志作家。他的姓也暗示他不如別人(less than)的身份。

他為了婉拒Freddy的婚禮邀請函,決定去國外旅遊。在出發之前他與經紀人見面,才得知他最近寫完的小說剛被出版社退稿,因為跟以往一樣,主角又是一個自覺委屈的中產階級白人同志。有趣的是,故事中Less的小說其實跟這本小說Less有許多相似之處,比方說,主角都是年紀比較大、充滿疑惑的白人同志,他們懷念過去的身世。不過,在現代社會,一個白種同志一般來說並不是很大的問題,多得是更受壓迫的社群。然而,在他出發之前,他沒辦法看到自己世界之外的一切,只是一再重複一樣的故事。

讓我比較產生共鳴的部分,是他在講那些經歷過第一代愛滋病危機的同志,他們活到晚年的感受。在缺乏模範的情況下,那一代的同志不是很清楚要有尊嚴地活到老。更進一步來說,對同志而言,什麼是「有意義」的存在?身為同志,是要效仿異性戀社會的典範,結婚、生下(或領養)小孩嗎?這些問題也牽涉到我上述的「矛盾和對立」。早期的同志運動其實意圖為顛覆以異性戀為正統的關係典範。最近台灣才剛通過婚姻平權法案,但反對這個法案的萌萌竟然無意識地呼應早期的同志運動,也就是性解放的觀點:同性戀者不應該(或不適合)受「正統」異性戀關係的壓迫影響;萌萌口中的「不反同,反同婚」也是套用這個道理。在婚姻平權法案之前,台灣曾有「多元成家」法案,更符合性解放運動的觀點,不過沒有通過。在某方面來說,現有法案比較傳統,同性戀關係也受限於傳統典範;不過,這同時也是一個比較踏實的觀點,同性戀者不因為性取向並而比異性戀者更有智慧,也是繼續複製異性戀社會中的階級與種族不平等。

總之,還沒看完,不過我還是很推薦這本小說。

Shamelessly Ashamed: 「不恥」or 「不齒」 Part 3

I previously posted two blog posts  looking at how 「不恥」 and 「不齒」 are used as homonyms to mean “shame” in Ruan Ching-yue’s short story ‘The Conman’ (translation available here) and in A Dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong (review available here), despite the former actually meaning “unashamed”. This suggested that most Taiwanese now use 「不恥」 rather than 「不齒」 , while reading 《斷代》 by writer Kuo Chiang-sheng however, I discovered a counterexample:

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In this sentence, 「不齒」 is used as follows:

…展現的仍是令開放的同類不齒的無知與無奈…

… showing still the ignorance and helplessness that is such a source of shame for those gay people who are open…

The book is really good so far and I’d definitely recommend it.

Addicted to ‘Addicted’《上癮》上癮了

So I watched Addiction/Addicted or 《上癮》 the gay-themed Chinese drama that got banned recently and… I thought it was great for a Chinese drama. If you don’t want spoilers skip down past the first photo. Although let’s face it, spoilers aren’t really a concern with formulaic but fun dramas.

Albeit it’s a little bit problematic that stalking, rape, kidnapping and violent jealousy are treated as normal (and almost comical) ways in which the couple finally get together. If I hadn’t seen a lot of straight Chinese dramas along similar themes, I would think this was an attempt to demonize the gay community, but in other series that don’t feature gay themes and even in the straight relationships featured in the series, bat-shit crazy is seen as a normal expression of love. Although it may be seen as encouraging unhealthy behaviour in relationships, let’s face it, this is a soap opera, so drama is par for the course. It was therefore a little bemusing to see the couple waking up as lovers the night after the kidnap before – but let’s not try and find too many life lessons here and explore some of the language instead! My friend told me the book is worth a read and is a bit of a tear-jerker, but can’t find it on online bookstores.

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So this may all be common knowledge for those of you who studied Chinese in Beijing, but for learners in Taiwanese, it can raise a few eyebrows. Here we see the phrase 「每次都找我的茬」「茬」(chá) could be replaced by 「麻煩」, as the phrase means  “He’s always trying to make trouble for me”.

The second word 「慫」 (sǒng) seems to mean “I couldn’t be arsed arguing with you, so you can have it your way” – a super long explanation for one tiny word, lol.
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The next term 「奴家」 isn’t really a slang term, I just thought it was funny to hear in the context of banter between two bi-curious guys in a Chinese drama

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Dahai uses 「奴家」(a humble self-referential term used by women) as a jokey self-reference.

Below we’ve got the old classic 「咋了」 which just means 「怎麼了」

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Happy to get an earful from any Beijingers who take issue with any of the interpretations here or just be nice and leave some more Beijing slang in the comments section.

Fake it ’til you make it: Inappropriate wordplay using characters from Jin Yong’s martial arts novels

1280px-Gay_Pride_Taiwan_2009If you’ve been in Taiwan for a substantial period of time but didn’t grow up here, chances are you’ve sat on the outskirts of an hilarious conversation involving characters from the books of martial arts novelist Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha) during which you’ve had completely no idea what was going on, or what the jokes were about. This has been my fate on several occasions, as, although I’ve bought several volumes of Jin Yong’s novels, I’ve never mustered up the courage to commit to reading a whole one and they’re currently rotting on my shelves. Given that generations of teenagers in Taiwan have read most of the Jin Yong canon, there are a lot of mainstream cultural references that revolve around these books.
When listening to this rather racy podcast on four Taiwanese guys’ experience of “romantic” dalliances with gay foreigners in Taiwan (click here to download it directly or click on 「台灣及其他國家」 under the 「收聽下載點」 section after following the link), I was perplexed when everyone started laughing at one point in the podcast over the nickname that one of the hosts had adopted for the show: 「獨孤求幹」. “Lonely, asking to be fucked” is the literal reading of the nickname, but this in itself was too crude to inspire so much mirth. The wit (well, you can call it wit), comes because the phrase is a corruption of the name of a Jin Yong character, 「獨孤求敗」”Lonely in search of defeat”. He has this name because he is so expert at swordplay that he wants to be defeated just to find someone who is on par with his skill.
Now the joke is starting to become a lot clearer – swordplay, seeking someone equally skilled at… There we go.
For those still none the wiser: The 「幹」 meaning “fucking” suggesting that he is a master at it, but is looking for someone that can beat him in terms of skill and, here, suggests that he could be turned from a “top” to a “bottom” if he found someone more skilled at it.
I’ve found that in Chinese tones being the same, ie 敗bai4 and 幹gan4 both being fourth tones, tends to be more important in wordplay than rhyme or off-rhyme as in English.
Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience in finding a Jin Yong reference that you just didn’t get.
Quick note that the podcast contains some very adult content.
Lead photo credit: Liu Wen-cheng

What I’m Reading Dec 2015-Jan 2016 我最近在看什麼書?

Just a quick update on what I’ve been reading and what I plan to read over the coming months.

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I bought a book called 《斷代》 by  Taiwanese author Kuo Chiang-sheng (郭強生) after the salesperson recommended it at the GinGin Bookstore and have just begun to read it. I suspect the title is a piece of wordplay, as it can mean “to divide between distinct periods of history” and by extension hints that the book goes into the division between the older and younger generation of gay men in Taipei and the driving ideologies behind their attitudes (this certainly seems to be the case from what I’ve read so far); in addition to this, however, 「斷」 also means “cut” and 「代」can mean “successor” – which suggests the title also points to the gay experience as the final generation of a family (in that they cannot reproduce). This put me in mind of a passage from Chu Tien-wen’s (朱天文) brilliant Notes of a Desolate Man (《荒人手記》):

我站在那裡,我彷彿看到,人類史上必定出現過許多色情國度罷。它們像奇花異卉,開過就沒了,後世只能從湮滅的荒文裡依稀得知它們存在過。因為它們無法擴大,衍生,在愈趨細緻,優柔,色授魂予的哀愁凝結裡,絕種了。

《荒人手記》,朱天文,時報文化,二版,臺北市,65頁

Translated by the talented Howard Goldblatt Continue reading

‘The Con Man’ by Roan Ching-yue 〈騙子〉阮慶岳

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He was a con man.

He felt like a cotton-bound paper lantern, panicking that he would be seen through at any moment, giving off, as he was, a glow of affability and affection from every pore, both tantalizing and haughty. After he’d finished a con, he gave his arrogance even freer reign, but he wasn’t normally able to trust his feelings to others. They were his private hoard, a secret love affair, delectable, but not to be shared out loud. Sometimes he felt so stifled that it was as if his insides would rip open in a roar, but then he would use a soothing motherly tone to subdue his organs, bursting as they were with pride-fed excitement, saying, Be good now, I know… but you can’t tell anyone! You can’t tell anyone! You should all be quite aware of that now, shouldn’t you!

The jubilation was like an infant wailing for its mother’s breast, making him feel like a helpless new mother cradling it closer to his chest, rocking it and saying, Don’t cry, don’t cry, come on! Let’s go for a walk to the riverside and see the rainbow. On the street he would be even more cautious, not allowing his arms to fall from his body for even an instant, for fear that the infant inside him would start to wail. Try though he might to contain himself, he wasn’t able to disguise an appearance of self-satisfied mirth and haughtiness, in the drab blur of the crowds, especially with his lantern-like translucent splendor.

His organs would be soothed by the sight of the rainbow and enter into the heavy slumber of sated beasts. However, sometimes the joy he felt was so strong, it would wake him up at night and he would break his taboo by spilling all to his beloved stuffed goose. Like tonight… he couldn’t get images of A out of his head, flowing like restless spirits struggling to emerge from within him, scattered over the countless past months, like colored flags which circle happily in the wind over time, illuminating the lantern case which shrouded him to such an extent that it was as if he would burst into flame any minute.

On nights like this he was left with no other option but to tell the story of A at length to the attentive-looking stuffed goose.

I Lie Because I Love You Continue reading

Review of ‘Scars on Memory’ a documentary by Mickey Chen 陳俊志的《無偶之家,往事之城》 影評

f48a5bc55fab76e0d4d353a35bd60654The Chinese title of this documentary translates literally to “A home without a spouse, the city of the past.”  It is directed by Mickey Chen (陳俊志), who wrote quite a biographical book Taipei Dad, New York Mom (《台北爸爸紐約媽媽》) a few years ago. I’m halfway through it, but I would recommend what I’ve read so far – as it is a touching account of a gay man’s life without being trite or shmaltzy. Continue reading

‘The Pretty Boy from Hanoi’ by Roan Ching-yue 阮慶岳的〈河內美麗男〉

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Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart. This is a short story taken from City of Tears (哭泣哭泣城 kuqi kuqi cheng, 2002) by Roan Ching-yue (阮慶岳) , an architect and professor based in Taipei.

Can I still be heart-broken

He arrived in Hanoi in the afternoon. He didn’t know what to do, so he just wandered around the busy districts and the little alleys near Hoan Kiem Lake, buying a few things for the sake of it, then an old opera house building towering at the end of the street drew him over; there were people queuing up to buy tickets at the booth, he approached and asked a woman what was going on, she said it was an event celebrating the fortieth anniversary of something, and that there was an opera performance from Paris, she said it would be really good and that he shouldn’t miss it.

There was still some time remaining after he’d bought the ticket, and after turning a few corners he came across a beer garden where he sat down to order a drink; there were a few western patrons scattered throughout the bar, mostly in couples or in groups, he was sitting alone, feeling a strange unsettling feeling of not knowing where to direct his gaze. He was still unable to convince himself that he was already here in Hanoi, or indeed of the reasons why he had come, it didn’t seem that this was the course his life should be running, but he really sitting here now, it was strange but inescapable.

The sky darkened suddenly, he paid the bill and then made his way gradually back to the opera house. Along the road there were young pedlars, one of them wouldn’t go away and followed him through a few alleys, a beggar woman urged her daughter, who couldn’t have been older than three or four years old, to hold on tight to his trouser leg; this all made him rather uncomfortable, he had a french opera to enjoy, if only these people, the onslaught of which he was helpless against, would stop appearing in front of him, in the square in front of the opera house he could still see the young policeman standing at attention, indifferently looking on without seeing, he even began to feel resentment against the Vietnamese government for allowing these two completely different worlds to coexist, such inappropriate neighbours with no way to avoid clashing. Continue reading