Writing in Arabic

Writing needs context. It is, for example, much easier to write with some purpose than just babbling on a blog.

So this is my fifth week of Arabic lessons. I love my class – we have a great teacher and I love working with the other five students who are all so different and interesting in their own ways. I enjoyed the diversity in the classroom and the fact that we are unmistakably united every day in this foreign tongue.

Above all I like the journal assignments. They reminded me of a time when writing in a foreign language was not yet traumatic. Currently my vocabulary in Arabic is very limited, and we haven’t even covered the most basic grammar rules yet. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about diction or style so much as I do in English yet. S, our instructor, expect us to write only basic, uncomplicated sentences.

That said, I found my storytelling not affected by my very rudimentary command of the language at all – what a fascinating discovery. You see, we have to do these writing assignments in respond to prompts and serial illustrations provided by the textbook. So in order to make my task bearable, I make up unreal, sensational stories.

On a Tuesday afternoon, P and I stayed after class to complete some unfinished exercise. After that, we found ourselves suddenly trapped by a raging, pouring rain. Chatting with her, I found she do the exact same thing as I did. For example, she wrote for a set of weirdly suggestive illustrations: “The professor had an affair with a student. After that he was fired. But he still thinks about the student, even now when he’s on the beach.” I wrote something similar, but certainly less dramatic. Therefore, I thought her story was much better.

夏天

在国内转了一圈,然后又回到了波士顿,过了一周梦寐以求的安宁日子。先是阴沉了两天,但是今天,第一个周五,阳光明媚,气温冲过了三十度。昨天下的一场雨,以及早晨的露水和弥漫的湿气,转眼间就在阳光下蒸发了。

读阿拉伯语的一周过得特别快。每天天不亮就醒来,然后煮上粥(听按摩医生的话总是撒一把红米),洗澡,出来炒个菜,然后粥就着腐乳一起吃,看Anthony Boudain的Parts Unkown。看天逐渐变亮,然后读两三个小时的阿拉伯语,做作业,九点多出发去上课。中午下课走几分钟去Harvard Square的clover吃一个三明治,然后回来继续上课到下午三点。回家的话会立马倒在床上,看点不费脑子的电影,做东西吃,很早睡着。

嘉兴

回到嘉兴已经三天。昨天早上不可遏止地出门去游逛,拍照是一种冥想,好像想把几个月几年来落下的新发展都一口吸进眼睛和脑海里。因为国内总是发展太快,以半年回家一次的频率来说,几乎每次回来都有新发展,或者我又为自己发现一些从前从未注意到过的事物。每次也发掘开一点自己的过去。

早晨虽然是阴天,但鸟鸣婉转,绿树鲜翠欲滴。夜里是大声此起彼伏的蛙鸣。一些与波士顿的寂静沉沉相比,都是那么有生命的活力。生活在这里,让人觉得和生命本质的一些气与力相通,感觉使人收到自然的滋养。泥土是潮湿温热的,比如一块地从不可能荒芜很久,总是就会长满各式各样的花草。有漫长的梅雨季。空气有雨水滋润的味道。香樟树四季常青,因为太平常所以也不怎么惹人注意,落下来的花也不惹人注意。但这次意识到是多么想念这香樟树的味道。有了这些,没有高纬度地区地区更常见的蓝天,也没有什么可惜。宁愿常生活在这云里雨里。

故乡总是很难写的。每次回来,都发现嘉兴有那么多好东西。历史,自然,故人。比起其他的学问,对于故乡的考古,才是长久孜孜不倦的事业。别的地方的历史,学过就过去了;去过的地方也是一样。只有故乡是不断回来,因此历史总是在个人身上继续,牵扯不断。每一次自己成长之后,便能对应地在故乡的人文与地理里发现相助的样本。发现的是长久以来一直存在却被自己忽视或者,被故意埋没的历史。于是每一次,故乡成为个人成长的试验田,书写的起点,不断归来又不断从这里去往别的地方。

如果不去往远方便不能理解故乡。大概从去年开始想,总要找个什么契机好好做一些关于此地的事。写成研究论文也好,个人散文也好,或者只是多去探访,拍照,编成网络文章也好,反正有些需要被释放出来的,书写的欲望。将会是完全个人,读者看到会一目了然我与它的关系。但我希望个人自传式的书写不会成为这个计划的阻碍,希望以一种完全合乎情理的形式存在,因此而水到渠成。有许多准备工作要做,但我想我正在往完成它的那个好的方向走。

星辰

这里的空间是夜晚的。 比如现在,在湖边吹了半个小时冷风,抽了三根烟,被偶尔的路人看了两眼以后,回到家里,把两周的脏衣服扔进洗衣机,换上粉色的卫衣,心情才终于好一点。因为没有一个可以说话的人,所以又打开部落格开始写字。白茫茫一片的网页让我感觉到很安心。在湖边想什么,在这里也不能写出来。为什么去湖边也不能写出来。总不过就是一两件不开心的事。但现在我已经学会以最小的牺牲释放掉情绪了。

抬头仰望星辰。湖边的水声潺潺,月亮到了最圆最亮的一天,撒了一地树枝形状的影子。白天读了那么多书,总也没有一篇是属于我的。暗暗股着气,晚上回家来写中文。日程本里不厌其烦地写下每天做的事,做了的事,以后要做的事,也是一样。一种解决不切实际幻想的方法,强迫自己扎扎实实活在现实的时间里,不做一点旁逸的事。

我活着做的都是旁逸的事。哪怕再多一点点真心,对我,对你,活着都不会是这么没劲的事。这些所谓的谈话,讨论,交流,都那么装模作样又勉强,使人疲累。上不好学。看不起大多数学校里莫名其妙的事,还有朝朝暮暮没有启发性的课时。偶尔也有放光的时候。但这样的时刻转瞬即逝。希望飘渺如星辰。

主要还是我亏欠太多。比如迟迟未回的信。像一个未赎的深罪。在不在意即时回复短信的同时,又对屏幕那端迟迟不回的人,感到深深的绝望。感觉这一定是报应吧。无间的亲密既然不存在,我一定是在心里把这样的期望连根拔起并全烧了。顺带成功的人生。

(今天夜里波士顿来了一家高兴的人。)

失败

总是在不同的写字平台上流浪,好像有些话在一些地方说,比另一些地方容易一些。并且不想主动让非常多人知道(就算被看到也假装不知道好了)。文字好像是从我身体的碑拓下的帖。久而久之,无数记忆的碎片形成事后可以被分析的一手材料,成为可供编写、篡改的历史。将来的我可能会对这些材料感兴趣。

生活被很多伤心的事控制了很久。时间对我来说好像停滞了。虽然可以感觉到每天对身体的消耗,对痛感依然没有麻木,所以并不因为这考验的经久便觉得可以承受了。依然不能。被刺激到的是每天仍然能有五六件,只不过自我压抑的技巧更纯熟了,每次用各种奇妙的唯心哲学安抚自己calm down。说真话的机会于是越来越少,跟很多令我些许失望但依然爱着的朋友一样,变得更琐碎,更逃避,更肤浅,更沉默。

因为太过急躁的反应会伤到人,这点我已经体会过。对友谊的耐心,我想我总是没有我想象的那么多。我对别人和对自己一样不宽容。爱别人和自己丑陋的一面,是如何可以做到的?爱也有失败的时候吗?有的。我总是失败。爱也没有很多种。说到底所索求的都是同一种不假思索的亲密。由仰慕而产生的不断靠近的欲望,随之而来的绝望的无期的等待。

 

 

Life-Writing

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” Diary, 17 February 1922

Angela Carter’s Feminist Mythology

On Doris Lessing and Not Saying Thank You

Doris Lessing: a model for every writer coming from the back of beyond -Margaret Atwood


Hermione Lee, The Art of Biography No. 4

Some notable figures: Woolf, Penelope Fitzgerald, Katherine Mansfield, Willa Cather.

I came to realize that what can be called “life-writing” is probably the most enjoyable types of reading for me. As Hermione Lee mentions in her interview,“Life-writing, a term used by Woolf in ‘Sketch of the Past,’ is made up of different kinds of ‘true’ narratives—biography, autobiography, memoir, diaries, letters, travel writing. ”

Now I certain that I’m always fascinated by the life-writing(s) that I’ve come across, maybe even more than the fictions and essays that define one as a writer. But I’m reluctant to admit that I’m drawn even more toward these life-writings than their “real work” — I had the notion deep in my mind that these types of writing are all secondary and less in value compared with the real achievements of the writers—their “true” masterpieces, the novels and stories and so on.

I think the reason why this idea has been so entrenched in my mind is that I was never taught to look at these materials in English classes, as if, as Lee says in the interview, that these writers don’t have lives, and they weren’t important enough to be worthy of examining as their words.

But episodes in my life lately have help me to realize that life in itself is no less important than writing (of course!). To live a good life is as hard as produce a good pieces of writing, if not more challenging. Should writing, than, subject to the demands of life, or it is possible that the text has the final say?

I find this predicament hard to live with yet fascinating. Such dilemma is, as one can imagine, most manifest in the “life-writing” of a writer. Must one be sacrificed to achieve the success of the other?

It is said that while life contributes to writing, writing doesn’t always if never contributes to life (health, relationships, finance, etc.). I recognize this message, but don’t necessarily want to change what I’d do to give up writing all together. There must some way in which life and writing cohabit perfectly. In the ideal situation, the existence of one supports, rather than jeopardizing the other. This hope drives me to read as much as life-writing as possible — they’ll contain the clues for the answer that I’ve been looking for.

Often, and I consider this phenomenon a quite strange one, that readers don’t expect writers (or artist, actors, etc.) to have a good life. They imagine creative persons die abruptly or suffer form poverty or persecution, etc. Think of the stand-up comedian, who is only allowed to joke about the unfortunate situations of his life. Perhaps as Aristotle says in the Poetics, we expect figures in comedy to be lower than / similar to us, while tragic heroes better than us. So maybe the reader would often like to see the creative person as a tragedy, and to fulfill such demand the biographers and historians might be incentivized to make what is life a legend. The reader is upset to see a writer who enjoys a good life. Therefore, he must “died a good death” — the biographers then must not choose to write about someone “who just declined“.

But decline we must as it is the condition of life. At the current moment I try to put as much care into life as writing, although secretly I’ve always preferred the latter.