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On China and other niceties
el enigma explosivo

An explosive mystery

By China

On October 25, I made a stopover in Frankfurt during a return flight from Beijing to Madrid. During my brief stay at the airport, I read Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful speech at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and was particularly impressed by the Nigerian-American writer’s comment that the world is “shifting and darkening”. Her words took on a particular meaning in light of what happened to me shortly after.

While I was going through customs, a bottle of Chinese liqueur (府藏孔府家)  I was carrying caught the attention of two officials (see photo). The bottle had been packaged by the duty free shop in Beijing and was accompanied by the receipt in its plastic bag.   The two officials called their supervisor, who then took me to an interview room, where another official was waiting, and the pair then insisted they had to check the contents of the beautifully wrapped and sealed bottle.

My attempts to explain that the bottle was a gift and that its wrapping was part of the beauty of the gift were ignored. After first prizing open the sealed box containing the bottle, they then insisted they would have to “inspect” the contents. When I objected, they called three young, well-built police officers, but who seemed reasonably relaxed about the whole affair. They asked me to identify myself, which I did, and I then explained that the bottle was a gift. Nevertheless, they told me to open the bottle and to drink some of the contents. I again told them that it was a gift and furthermore that I didn’t feel like drinking at that moment, particularly as the liqueur was 52º proof. After a brief pause, they laughed, looked at each other and told me I could go.

Was the presence of seven people really necessary to establish whether this hapless traveler was hiding explosives or some other illegal substance in the mysterious bottle of Chinese liqueur? The world is darkening…

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N.B. I should point out that the Chinese liqueur in question 府藏孔府家  is called Confucius 孔子 (Kongzi); maybe the German customs officials had a problem with the Chinese philosopher. OR PERHAPS THE WHOLE THING WAS A JOKE, OR IS A JOKE, BECAUSE WE ALL PARTED ON THE BEST OF TERMS, SMILING.

An exceptional teller of tales

By Literature, Story

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

The Artist

By Cinema

The French movie that conquered the world’s heart.

 

Today, October 12, marks the premiere in France of The Artist.

Looking through my diaries, I came across an entry I made on January 26, 2012 and that I leave here as a small, humble homage to the film:

Yesterday I went to see The Artist, silent, black and white and a wonderful description of the fall of a man unable to adapt to changing times; in his case, the arrival of the talkies, and who is saved in extremis by something that surely he, along with many others, least expected at that moment in his life: a ray of love.

Hay Festival and Mr Independence

By Hay Festival, Literature, Short story

Photos: Jesús Pascual – IE Business School

 

Among the works I read out or recited at the Jardín del Romeral, the garden created by the reputed landscaper Leandro Silva, at this year’s Hay Festival Segovia 2018, this version of my short story Mr. No stands out. I have retitled it Mister Independence, from my book Dibugrafías, co-created with artist Miguel Panadero.

Mister Independence

Mister. Independence is very much at home in Indepenland, as one might well expect. The country is his. Streets, avenues, monuments, when not expressly dedicated to his personality cult, at one moment or another, all refer clearly to him. Needless to say, in general, the atmosphere in Indepenland is an Independent atmosphere.

Nevertheless, certain voices have highlighted not just the opportuneness of a certain independence, but furthermore, the need to resume talks with Depenland and Mister Dependence, because at the end of the day, they point out, it makes as little sense to go around shouting and asking for independence the whole time as it does to go around shouting and asking for dependence, and that’s without getting into the childishness involved in being surrounded by so many peers.

At the poetry recital in the Jardin del Romeral, which once again I coordinated, I was joined by writers such as the British-Egyptian Sabrina Mahfouz, Wales’s Dylan Moore, German poet Michael Krüger, Brazil’s Alexandre Vidal Porto, Polish poet Dorota Maslowska, British-Spanish poet Bek Clark, and poet and journalist Carlos Aganzo. Also taking part were, among others, Caroline Michel, the President of the Hay Festival, Simon Manley, the UK ambassador to Spain, and the ambassador of the Netherlands in Spain, Matthijs van Bonzel.

 

 

The chicken or the egg

By Short story

I started to write when he had already painted something. Nevertheless, I would often tell stories he hadn’t painted. Could I have written those stories without that initial spark from his paintings? Is there a well somewhere we draw from for these stories? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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