&: Empires of Dust

Jiang comes from the same literary background that produced established names such as Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Jia Pingwa. All of those writers got their start with politically-approved hack work, too. But while they went in other directions, Jiang Zilong continued to write in a literary style codified in the 1950s. Although he published most of his major works in the 1980s and 1990s, and Empires of Dust in the mid-2000s, Jiang is something of a living literary fossil. To understand his work, one has to step back to the era of socialist realism and revolutionary romanticism.

Please read: Socialist Literature for the Capitalist Era at Los Angeles Review of Books' China Channel.


&: Wheeled suitcase

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go—so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.
Expatriate identity issues are boring, I'm sorry. I don't worry about the question of belonging, anymore, like I might have before. I've got nothing to go back to, so I have to make the best of what I've got here. I read that Jamaica Kincaid essay yesterday, though, and those lines were knocking around my head. I'm stuck in the middle of that native vs. tourist split, forever, in Tokyo. When a new hotel went up on the block, I knew it would mean more wheeled suitcases being dragged along the sidewalk out front, more Midwestern rubes in cargo shorts loitering, Chinese tour groups filing in to the 7-11 across the road to pose for pictures holding, like, tuna sandwiches and dorayaki. But I can never blend in, either. You've got, like, two point something percent foreign residents in this ward and most are from South Korea, China, and Vietnam. There was a public meeting of the danchi's residents' committee and the neighborhood committee, where residents—that includes me—were assured that there would be no disruptions from foreign guests. So, I'm privy to the local anxiety about tourists but I also often get second and third looks as I come into the building. I get to hear the gossip about the Chinese family on the sixth floor, but I'm also aware that they're surely gossiping about me, too. I'm not a native and I never will be, even if my life here is banal and boring and I live in a danchi in Taito Ward.

It is an ugly building, though, now that I mention it. I took a look at it again this morning, after trying to write something and the Jamaica Kincaid line and the hotel situation coming to mind. Why doesn't it have any windows?

I should probably move to the mountains or something, maybe some Hokkaido coal village that's giving away free plots of land.