Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Voice

The other day at lunch I had a fascinating conversation with M. Having once claimed World History one of my favorite classes in high school and spent many nights reading through that thick European history of the 20th C book (yes, A? the one with extremely tiny font size and a crimson cover if I recall correctly) in IBH History class, I'm surprised to realize that my knowledge of European history really hasn't advanced much since.

M shared with me the experiences of his grandparents generation undergoing WWII and I asked of the current situation of the Jewish population residing in Germany. "I think most of the people who had gone through that period of time really don't like to talk about it. In fact, most of the gestures of reflections and repentance came when the following generation started to dig out this past and questioned the history that the previous generation so much wanted to forget," M said.

This is a similar statement that I've heard in respect to the generation of Chinese people undergoing the Cultural Revolution or the Japanese wartime aggression across East/South East Asia in the first half of the 20th C. When I lived in China, I was always shock to find how little some of my peers know about their parents experiences of relocating to the countryside as "zhi qing" (知青) and part of the 上山下鄉 movement or how their parents could remain silent for ages when it was something that turned their entire world upside down.

Today at lunch J and I were talking about the possibility of literature offering a slide of reality that historians may never be able to fully re-represent years later. Historians may have the hindsight to offer the causes and factors that lead to the rise and fall of a glorious or traumatic past; however, literature exists for the purpose of recording a much more first-hand and intimate response to a event or historical tide at the moment of its occurrence. To me, one provides a grand-scale of perspective whereas the other extends deep into one's heart and soul as an individual voice that can't nor shall ever be reduced to a few lines/phrases/paragraphs that generations later recorded in, say, a wikipedia entry.

It's a voice, a voice of individuality, that rises and cries out and immediately stays there, frozen in time and space, only awaiting for a few pair of curious eyes or ears to again pay attention to its power and weight and lends it validity for its courage to rise and cry out loud at that moment in time.

Why am I studying the thing I'm studying, this thing called literature? Is it truly for the understanding of the collective of the individual voices or - after all - I'm merely trying to find the very voice of my own, as if I haven't found it or have found it yet have not mastered the exact way of expressing it?

Does it even matter?

It does, to me at least. Just like I'm always curious about the love story of a newly-wed couple (thanks TI and J for the fascinating recount of their romance last night!) and am always resilient in asking questions after questions about one's favorite childhood snack or the CM song still remembered, stories and memories of the past are infinite fascinations to me.

And perhaps just to repay my indebted gratitude towards those who've been there to share with me their fascinating stories of the past/present either in person or through the power of language, I hope to one day add my own slice of pie to the grand narrative and offer up a story that sparks off a great laugh, a more inspired mind, if not a drop of tear from those who care to spare that minute or two.

「傳承吧,這或許就是人生的意義」Mom likes to say. Guess the next big question is ... Where and how shall that voice be found?

梅ちゃん at 6:12:00 AM



at 3/18/07, 7:03 AM Anonymous little pillow said...

I think you voice can be found here, in this blog, and it's such an wonderful voice.

at 3/27/07, 3:36 AM Blogger ferdinandhui said...

I agree with pillow... you've certainly a voice already -- but if what you're looking for is a voice that will span decades if not centuries; a voice that will remember feelings that entries in Wikipedia will forget (or never carry!), then I look forward to your finding (founding!). Be it booming or sotto voce, I can't imagine it being anything but deft --



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