A Trip to China

I haven’t been to China yet but I went on a little voyage through space and time to take my mind off of the hurricane and its aftermath.

I had read a few good reviews of Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words and its bright yellow cover had been sitting on my desk for a few months.

As I prepared for Hurricane Sandy, I set aside a few different books to read.  I wasn’t sure what kind of reading mood I’d be in so my selection included:

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, John Steinbeck’s America and Americans and Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words

Yu Hua explores his relationship with 10 words (such as “People” and “Writing”) and through this exploration tells a history of China interweaved with his own personal stories.

I was delighted to find that one of the words he writes about is ‘reading’.

One passage in particular stood out to me:

“Every time I read one of the great books, I feel myself transported to another place, and like a timid child I hug them close and mimic their steps, slowly tracing the long river of time in a journey where warmth and emotion fuse.  They carry me off with them, then let me make my own way back, and it’s only on my return that I realize that they will always be part of me.”

Sitting in my cold, dark house (I was without electricity and heating for almost two weeks), his words reminded me why I had included books in my hurricane emergency kit.

49 thoughts on “A Trip to China

  1. What a great post, Letizia. I still remember the trips I took as a young boy– all through reading. I am happy things are returning to normal for you and the area. My wife and I went through flooding last year and I still think about it when it rains.

    • It’s true, reading makes for such wonderful travel, doesn’t it?

      I remember the photo of the huge water containers you put on your blog a little while ago. You live in a part of the world that sees more extreme conditions than I do I think – either getting too much water at once or not enough! Oh, dear.

  2. Have had “The Road” on my “to buy” list for some time, since I like Cormac McCarthy’s style so much. We take lights and plumbing and heating and all the modern conveniences for granted until we don’t have them for a while. Glad you’re okay. 🙂

    • For some reason, I can’t find the right time to read “The Road”. It never feels like the “right” moment and another book always beckons instead. I know the time will eventually come, it always does with a book like that; it’s funny how these things happen with certain books. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book when you do end up reading it.

  3. They do become part of us and that is why I am scared of reading books. I read The Fountainhead and The Atlas Shrugged in first year of college and failed a couple of my favourite courses. I do not regret what happened but what I do know is that when reads something intently or even listens to someone with guards down, amazing things can happen.

    PS- I scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in the next semester 🙂

    • It’s quite beautiful that one can be so taken in with a book. A wonderful tribute to an author’s words!

      And a perfect 10 out of 10 the next semester – I’m impressed! (but not surprised; your posts and comments are always so introspective and clever) 🙂

  4. Well said!! I, too, have developed a interest in China – a vast territory…I just picked up “Mao’s Last Dancer,” I will be looking forward to reading your thoughts on” China in 10Words. wonderful to hear that you are safe.

    • I really liked the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer” (or maybe you were referring to a book with the same title?). I learned a lot about China from “China in 10 Words” – of course it’s just one man’s point of view, but a fascinating take nonetheless.

      • I didn’t know it was a movie – I have the book. I will check out “China in 10 Words.” I live in Vancouver, Canada where Dr. Sun Yat Sen has iconic status. He was absolutely amazing. He died in 1925 and was buried in Nanking. I was reading a biography of Pearl Buck who gave an account of his funeral. A nation mourned. It would have been interesting to see how he would have negotiated the transition. Enjoy every one of your posts!!!!

  5. I have now added your books to my list. Often in troubled times being transported to a different setting through literature helps us bear up. Am glad you are experiencing a semblance of normal. Catching up on blogs is everyone’s dilemma, regardless of circumstances.

    • I hope you’ll like “China in 10 Words” – let me know if you get a chance to read it.
      Some chapters touched me more than others, but I found them all quite interesting.

    • There were so many passages in the ‘Reading” chapter that I could have used – he has a great way of explaining the reading experience in such a simple manner. (and the translator obviously does a great job too!).

  6. I sense in my writings the echo of my readings…reading is an infinite theme…somehow when I write i turn on to words my world’s reading…reading as a way of sensing the world and onself….Also, I remembered R. Barthes…literature is not for walk, literature is for breathing…something like this….and for travel! Walter

  7. Welcome back! I have missed you more than clogs, ferrets, rainbows, ox bow rivers and the moon. So quite a lot then. Fantastic post, China in Ten Words, duely added to the wishlist.

  8. Love the quote! Reading has been one of the greatest gifts and joy in my life. You were smart to include books in your kit. My better half makes fun of me all of the time, because even when we are running a quick errand, I grab a book. You never know what will happen and I hate being bored.

    • You are so right to bring a book with you wherever you go; you never know! They turn waiting for a friend or sitting in a doctor’s office into wonderful adventures.

  9. Nice words, Letiza! Hope you made it through hurricane Sandy okay! And boy, a week without electricity? The generation nowadays would rip off their hair if something like this happened to them! Anyways, awesome piece, and GREAT passage – sent a shiver down my spine.

    • Thanks for the kind words! In the end, as annoying as a week without electricity and heating was, I was one of the lucky ones as I didn’t have any damage to my house (some of my neighbors had a lot of damage – trees crashing into their bedrooms, etc). So glad that passaged moved you as well 🙂

  10. Sounds like a good book and a perfect pick for your Hurricane Emergency Kit. I’m glad things are back to normal (or at least are getting back to normal) and that you can enjoy reading with better lighting now.

  11. Very nice post. I love it when a writer creates a world for me so rich that it comes to life. A Hundred Years of Solitude does that for me every time I read it and that reminds me, perhaps it’s time to read it again. Hope things are back to normal after Sandy.

    • Thanks, you’re sweet.

      I know a lot of people who love to read in the dark with their ipads or kindles (as they are backlit), but as I prefer to read traditional books (and the headlamp wasn’t all that comfortable) I guess I’ll stick for electricity, or day reading 🙂

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