On China and other niceties
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Story

Shangri-la

By | China, Literature, Story | No Comments

 

We can’t avoid acting in accordance with plans, after all, a plan provides security and reduces our degree of uncertainty to tolerable levels. That said, it’s also nice to forget the plan and allow life to surprise us, because a surprise can often give us that vital hit we were hoping for or simply lift us out of our planned boredom.

I say this because flying between Beijing and Shanghai last week, I picked up a copy of the China Daily  and half-heartedly began to scan its pages. When I opened it, I came across a great article called Where is Shangri-La? by Simon Chapman and DJ Clark about one of my favorite books, Lost Horizon, by the writer and prolific smoker James Hilton, who was born in 1900 and died at the early age of 54.

Needless to say, Lost Horizon, published in 1933 and an immediate international best-seller, is the origin of the term Shangri-La, a fictional Tibetan utopia that has not only captured the western imagination, along with other mythical places such as El Dorado and Xanadu, but also lends its name to an international hotel chain. Any number of communities have claimed to be the origin of the paradise Hilton invented (incidentally, he never visited the region), among them, Lijiang, Zhongdian, both in China’s Yunnan province. Shangri-La in Chinese is written 香格里拉 (Xianggelila).

Chapman and Clark focus on the question of why Hilton never admitted that the earthly paradise in his book was based on a series of articles written by the Austrian Joseph Rock published in the National Geographic, while accepting the lesser influence of Father Évariste Régis Huc.

I’ll leave you with the beginning of the novel, as said, one of my favorites, which is nothing more nor less than a great story well told: “Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they had believed they had…

 

lost horizon-autor

This is not a story

By | Story, Short story | No Comments

On a day like today, November 21, but in 1898, René Magritte was born. In his honor, a few lines and this video, in which I link his famous “This is not a pipe” with Diderot and our book, Dibugrafías

This is not a story

René Magritte spoke about how images deceive. Of his famous painting, «Ceci n’est pas une pipe»  (This is not a pipe), he said: «The famous pipe. How people reproached me! And yet, could you fill my pipe? No, it’s just a representation… So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying…» Long before Magritte, Diderot said «This is not a story». Words deceive as much as images do. Liberty, happiness or justice are also merely representations we fill as we see fit. So who’s lying?

An exceptional teller of tales

By | Literature, Story | No Comments

隋唐演义150-001

 

Nothing is more important than telling a tale, or to put it another way, nothing is more important than living to tell a tale. Once the tale is over, the party, sometimes great fun, sometimes very sad, is also inevitably over.

Last September 11, Shan Tianfang (单田芳), like the unfortunate occupants of the Twin Towers years earlier, ceased telling tales.Shan Tianfang was one of the greatest modern exponents, if not the greatest, of what the Chinese call Pingshu (评书 or shuoshu 说书), the oral storytelling tradition dating to the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). In his memory, I leave this small example of his art: Shan Tianfang, a Superstar of Chinese Storytelling

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