Tuesday, 12 April 2011

K: The Art of Love

by Hong Ying

Based on “the true story”, if one can call that an affair between a young English poet, Julian Bell, whose main claim to fame was to be the son of Vanessa Bell and nephew of Virginia Woolf, and a married Chinese woman, K. This is how Julian referred to her in letters to his mum; in the novel, K is given a name, Lin Cheng. I don’t care that much about the true identity of K, or the truthfulness of the events in the book. What I have in front of me is a curious but rather mediocre piece of fiction. How, how could Lin, a prominent writer as well as master of the Taoist Art of Love, possibly fall for this arrogant, cowardly Westerner? I don’t know whom to blame — the author or her translators — for the missed opportunity. This could have been a great erotic novel. (No, this one is not erotic.)

I would not bother to write this post if not for several free-verse poems in the end of the book: “Lin’s poems to Julian”. I thought they were good.

Our self-portraits

Can’t you see what I see
in this twig foaming with plum flowers?
A whole quarry-load of granite eyes
have cracked, waiting for it to blossom —
but now the explosion is finally happening,
as your words light the fuse to my heart:
‘Till old, we sleep.’

I look away to a winter vase-landscape
thinking: that’s where I lived before I met you.

Then I rub two plum petals together,
their dried blood dripping from my fingers
into a frozen stream.

I still see precisely how things stood
when your own heart burst into flames.

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