I am sitting in front of the window, staring out of it. Out there it is life in the most populous city in the country. Before my eyes there are clothes of my nameless neighbours about 10 metres away from me. We live in blocks of apartments, like kingdoms of termites. I wonder what kinds of bodies those clothes cover. They are flesh, of course. And what then? I don’t really know. There might be sweat, and dead skin cells, and hair. I imagine myself reading those words out loud in British accent.
Sometimes I think about how my own Wikipedia page, if any, will look like, about what people will write about me after my death. And I think about the inexorable limits of a biographer who writes books about other people, living or dead. They might be lucky enough to manage to meet the ones they are going to write about in person, talk to them, give them the manuscript for fact-checking and for making some changes necessary. The books, however, are just the result of the propaganda for the sake of the ones for whom and about whom they are written. A biography about me can mention some poems I composed and managed to land somewhere, though it is just a minor journal. The biographer can find some more in my laptop, but how does he or she know what I thought when I composed such poems? How does they know what happened to me before that, what was the weather like on that day? How does they know, in the least? A biography is at its best a puzzle piece about a person’s life, and one cannot tell much about the picture from such a piece. The picture is of one’s own. How can others tell what the person thinks on a pear-coloured sunny day when the wind is playing on their arms, when the person is dying for making love on the grass with crickets chirping around?
Suddenly, lethargy comes sitting next to me. I think my memory, my language abilities have gone away. I can’t think and write clearly. I think about the fly in a short story by Woolf.
“Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wishes to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.” E.M. Forster was right when he said so in Aspects of the Novel. Tonight I think about Henry James and how he was, and continues to be praised as the master of English writing. I can only see his verbosity, and I find his characters pale, stupid and one-sided. It is arguably true that everything is worth being written about, as Plath has put it. Yet pretentious writing cannot make up for good stories. And I think James did not live enough to see and to understand life. He stole stories of others, yet he could not live the way they lived, he could not think the way they thought so he could not translate them lively into his writings. Then all he could do was to play narcissistically and flamboyantly with long words and relative clauses. And of course The portrait of a lady is a long book.
These days I read a book which was formerly a PhD dissertation of a world “prominent” scholar in his field. It is, disappointingly, nothing more than a hotpot of theories and figures everybody knows. Nothing original was offered. And I think about how the world is getting along with countless dissertations and books like that. Why can’t they just write something much shorter but much more original?
And self-imposed literati in my country are getting mad at being post-modern, post-structural, post-colonial. It seems that everything that is post-something will make them good and elite! Everything inexplicable is regarded as avant-garde and post-modern. What is modern then?
Sometimes, I don’t really know why I am here, living on Earth. Sometimes I could afford myself an answer for that question, that I want my own Wikipedia page continues, that I can somehow change it, make it re-written, that I am still “in the middle of the future” (as Tom Plate puts it).
I think about an angel playing harp beside a river on a sunny day. It must be beautiful. I opened L’été randomly and Camus wrote:
Je dormais à demi sous le soleil de deux heures quand un bruit terrible me réveilla. Je vis le soleil au fond de la mer, les vagues régnaient dans le ciel houleux. Soudain, la mer brûlait, le soleil coulait à longs traits glacés dans ma gorge. Autour de moi, les marins riaient et pleuraient. Ils s’aimaient les uns les autres mais ne pouvaient se pardonner. Ce jour-là, je reconnus le monde pour ce qu’il était, je décidai d’accepter que son bien fût en même temps malfaisant et salutaires ses forfaits. Ce jour-là, je compris qu’il y avait deux vérités don’t l’une ne devait jamais être dite.
I am already exhausted, on the verge of burnout. It is midnight and it is silent. I hear no noise but water drops pattering on the tole roof nearby. I might possibly live forever in this kingdom of termites. Perhaps I am myself a termite, among millions of termites. There might be no Wikipedia page about a single termite.