Before his retirement to his cottage outside Chiangling, the peasant/poet Chen Hsi-wei had always been on the move. When the news spread that he was able to receive visitors, several came. Among the most welcome was Liu Qing-sheng, who, before his own retirement, had been a second minister in the last years of the Sui dynasty. Liu and Hsi-wei had been pupils together under Shen … [Read more...]
Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published five fiction collections, Life in the Temperate Zone, The Decline of Our Neighborhood, The Artist Wears Rough Clothing, Heiberg’s Twitch, and Petites Suites; two books of essays, Professors at Play and The Posthumous Papers of Sidney Fein; two short novels, Losses and The Derangement of Jules Torquemal; essays, stories, and poems in a variety of scholarly and literary journals, and the novel Zublinka Among Women, awarded the Indie Book Awards first prize for fiction. Hsi-wei Tales, a collection of Chinese stories, and Intuition of the News, a book of non-Chinese stories, are forthcoming.
Early in the reign of Emperor Yang, the peasant/poet Chen Hsi-wei was making his way through Jizhou. He had no particular destination but thought he might visit the city of Dingxiang. It was a wet November. Hsi-wei was drenched and cold and a long way from the prefectural capital when he found shelter with a peasant family. Like so many families Hsi-wei encountered on his … [Read more...]
Note: The Tang minister Fang Xuan-ling begins the record of his conversation with Chen Hsi-wei about the latter’s poem known as “The War in the South” with a few comments of his own. It is hardly surprising that a minister of the new dynasty should have certain opinions concerning the recently ended one, the briefest in all of China’s long history. Hsi-wei does not willingly … [Read more...]
Turning-points cannot endure simply because points occupy no space. It’s around points that events pinwheel like nebulae. It seems plausible that the cosmos began at a turning-point which is to say nowhere. That is what I had written but it was not where my mind had flown. I was recollecting things I didn’t want to think about, that I’d expected not to think about once … [Read more...]
Choosing between right and wrong isn’t hard. I mean you might still choose badly, but if you do, you know it’s wrong. Like if you’re at the pool and a baby crawls to the edge and slips into the water because her mother’s busy gossiping and drinking daiquiris. The right thing’s obvious: you fish the baby out. You’re a heroine and the mother’s grateful—also she’s going … [Read more...]