EXILE ON FENGLUCIA

Life on an alien land
Carla Bruni

—Chez Keith et Anita

Put on her music and read Hemingway 

What do you seek in the Garden of Eden?

I’m not well-cultured in English literature, and would never pretend to be so. Heck, The Garden of Eden was only the fourth book I read that was written by Ernest Hemingway. Notwithstanding, I still couldn’t help but think about the issues raised by this beautifully written love story.

Everything seemed perfect when David and Catherine got married. They would spend everyday together drinking fine alcohol, swimming naked in the ocean, and making love. But soon one realized that Catherine was actually jealous of his husband, who was a published writer and received positive reviews for this works. As the jealousy grew, Catherine attempted to distract David from his work by changing her appearances and attempting other trivial shenanigans. When David seemed not to be moved by Catherine’s plea for attention, she introduced him to Marita, a handsome (in both Catherine’s and David’s words) girl with whom she claimed to have fell in love. Initially David found the idea of living with two women and even falling in love with both of them preposterous. However as the three of them spent more time together doing David and Catherine’s usual routine, David unexpectedly realised he was more and more drawn to Marita, who was indeed a very lovely girl and appreciated and supported his work more than Catherine did. Realising her plan had backfired and caused her six-month marriage with David to deteriorate, Catherine burned her husband’s work in progress out of spite and selfishness. During the couple’s quarrel, Marita stood by David’s side, comforted and encouraged him to carry on his work; the love of the two grew stronger. Finally came to her senses, Catherine apologized to David and told him that she still loved him despite what she had done. David knew that he loved Catherine as well, but the continuation of marriage would only end in more conflicts and unhappiness. Catherine decided to leave David and Marita for good. With Catherine gone and Marita at his side, David finished the story as he always wanted it to be. 

That was an outline of the story with my own limited, if not superficial, interpretations of the motives. Even though the novel was published posthumously, I personally think it might have ended on a perfect note. David found the woman who he truly loved and who truly loved him without sacrificing either his passion for writing or the passion for each other. Though before Catherine’s eventual departure, the time the three of them spent together was both joyful and miserable. I believe that the love between David and Catherine and the love between David and Marita were real. I could not claim that I believe Catherine was actually in love with Marita. It was perhaps the two women’s distinct manners of love towards a man that ultimately denied the possibility of their co-existence. Catherine loved David with critique that bordered on the line of jealousy; Marita loved David with total affection and admiration. From a male, or rather my own, perspective, perhaps critique and admiration are both desired from a companion; or one is preferred over another as life shifts its course. Perhaps that was why David was reasonably in love with both women, but was forced to make a choice when his life and career were in jeopardy because of the love he offered and received. 

I initially wanted to title this article “Is it possible to love two person at the same time?”, but realised that would raise a social and philosophical topic beyond my capability of discussing in depth. Although the consensus was “yes” when I asked a few friends (both Asian and European). 

Carla Bruni

—Darling

I didn’t know Ms. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was much more than just the wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and a model. But she is also an extremely talented music artist. I’m completely mesmerized by this alluring European woman who is fluent in French, Italian, and English (the three foreign languages I hope to master).

This song is a beautiful yet sorrowful poem.

Il m’appelait darling
En buvant son long drink
Tout de lin blanc vêtu
Pochette mauve et pieds nus
Il m’appelait darling
Comme un grand frère unique
Un oncle d’Amérique
Tout seul dans le living
Il me disait darling
L’époque est bien cruelle
Mais pour toi elle est belle
Tu es faite pour le ring
Et il me disait darling
Quand on à l’étincelle
Et des rêves à la pelle
On doit piquer son sprint

Il m’appelait darling
Comme un vieux Lord anglais
Un cousin égaré
Entre Proust et Kipling
Il m’appelait darling
Tout en me souriant
Et je le revois si grand
Nostalgique et charming

Il me disait darling
Prends garde à l’existence
Tout est dans l’élégance
Même au creux d’un looping
Il me disait darling
Rien ne vaut l’éphémère
Rien ne vaut le mystère
Dans une larme de gin

Il m’appelait darling
Mais plus rien ne lui était cher
Et sa solitude amère
Lui allait comme un smoking
Il m’appelait darling
Mais quand tombait le soir
A l’heure du désespoir
Il plongeait dans son spleen

Il me disait darling
Certains sont trop fragiles
Certains sont mal habiles
Tout le monde n’a pas ton swing
Il me disait darling
Je n’ai plus de saveur
Je n’ai plus rien à cœur
Plus l’ombre d’un feeling

Il m’appelait darling
Maintenant j’ai ton silence
Le trou de son absence
Et sa montre Breitling
Il m’a écrit darling
À toi mon dernier mot
Ne m’en veux pas darling
Je quitte le bateau
Et il m’appelait darling
Dis à ceux que j’aimais
Que mon corps de bastringue
A fini par lâcher

There is a very nicely done English translation of the poem as well.

his heart said goodbye Catherine goodbye my lonely girl goodbye and good luck and goodbye

—The Garden of Eden - Ernest Hemingway

Jesper Kyd

—Ezio's Family

This piece of music might just be my all time favourite next to Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. Following the footsteps of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, I got to virtually experience the beauty of Reinanssance Italy, a part of the Europe where I have been desiring to visit all my life. 

A Postcard Never Mailed

His shadow stretched all the way across the floor, it seemed endless. In front of him, the flame was devouring the logs in the fireplace with greed. His eyes fixated on the tangling red and yellow; his hand clutched to a postcard scribbled with words.

The postcard fell from the shelf when he was looking for a book to read. The wrinkled rectangular paper had a faded picture of the skyline of the city in which he worked; the other side had his own handwriting, barely recognisable. He glanced through the brief message. It was addressed over ten years ago to Dianna, whose wedding he accepted to attend but didn’t. In the message, he apologised for failing to show up, and explained that to watch her walk down the aisle to the alter was something he could never persuade himself to do. He never mailed the postcard and forgot about it. Over the years, he dedicated himself to his career and enjoyed great success. He bought a house in the countryside where he stayed during the weekends and holidays. That dinner at which Dianna and he met for the last time a decade ago was like a snow flake in a winter storm. No contact was made between them ever since. He moved on, but never met his other half. Now he lived alone accompanied by his career, hundreds of books, and a faithful dog.

He sat down on the armchair by the fireplace and called his dog. The German Shepherd trotted to his side and lied down. He crushed the postcard and tossed it into the flame. He caressed the top of the dog’s head as he watched the fire consume the crumbled paper.

Outside the house, snow began to fall.

A book in a cemetery

In Chinese culture, from my experience at least, visiting cemeteries is essentially a ritual one does on the anniversaries of the deceased or for blessings from ancestors before one leaves home soil for an extended period of time. Here in Canada people would also jog, walk their dogs, or simply have an evening stroll in the cemetery. I can only speculate the contrast is each culture’s different philosophy on death. 

I brought this up because the other day I went to Toronto Necropolis to finish reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Established in 1850, Toronto Necropolis is the resting place for many prominent historic figures of the city, including William Lyon Mackenzie, Toronto’s first mayor, and George Brown, one of the Fathers of Confederation, and founder of what later became The Globe and Mail. Visiting a historic cemetery such as Necropolis gives me the feeling that it silently narrates a fragment of history. For a moment, death isn’t terrifying anymore even though you stand where it rests. 

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy the city of Toronto. It possesses the combination of the flamboyance of metropolis and the tranquility of little town. The latter becomes more and more appealing to me. This maybe because I’ve read some Hemingway lately and found the portrayal of his life in Paris during the 1920’s alluring. I have always been fascinated by Europe’s culture, art, and architecture. A European girl who spent a significant amount of time on both continents told me that Toronto might be a nice city, but it dwarfs when compared to Europe. I would believe her. If there is only one thing I could do before death, it would be travelling across Europe. Perhaps I would spend an early evening at a pub or café and meet new people, or simply sit by the Seine and watch time go by. I’m not defeated and decided to plan my retirement life this early. I still want to work hard while I’m young, replenish the time I wasted. My yearning for Europe represents a transformation of lifestyle. Instead of spending my leisure time watching television shows and playing computer games as I’m used to do, I will read more and write more, enjoy life in a simpler yet more fulfilling way. 

I have been greatly enjoying the works of Hemingway. Reading “Nada y Pues Nada" from A Moveable Feast in a cemetery knowing that he wrote the piece only three weeks before he attempted suicide created an even more fascinating effect. 

maybe it is easier in the end to break your legs than to break your heart although they say that everything breaks now and that sometimes, afterwards, many are stronger at the broken places

—A Moveable Feast (The Restored Edition) - Ernest Hemingway

Into the wind

He wakes up feeling dreadful. He moves out of bed, exhales, then walks out onto the terrace. The town is as barely conscious as he is. A few birds are chirping in the distance while the sun inches its way towards the horizon. He leans against the rail; the morning dew dampens his pyjamas. But what does he care? He is still half submerged in dreams.
Dreams always know a way to extract memories and orchestrate them in the most ostentatious way. He dreamt of her again, it is the second time this month. He knows not why. 12 years has gone by since he last saw her. He has no knowledge of what has become of her, what she looks like now. He has no desire to seek any. To him, she would always be the most beautiful girl he had ever acquainted, the first girl who caught his heart, and the first girl he thought he loved. Like a dandelion seed that wonders if the wind of life would take it somewhere promising it prospers, or somewhere depressing it perishes; so did he.
Life isn’t always kind. Things crumbled; no reasons spared. He thought all was buried in the past under a nameless headstone. Yet here he is, more than a decade later, tormented by the ghost of lost memories. Perhaps if he got closure, things would be different? In dreams, that’s what his subconscious attempted to achieve.
The sun starts to lighten up the sky and warm up the air. A few joggers and dog walkers appear on the street. He hopes moving to this little town would finally bring him serenity. 
A breeze flows gently across his face; he smiles and walks back in.

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.

—A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

"Don’t you love me?"

"Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me."

"Isn’t there anything we can do about it?"

She was sitting up now. My arm was around her and she was leaning back against me, and we were quite calm. She was looking into my eyes with that way she had of looking that made you wonder whether she really saw out of her own eyes. They would look on and on after every one else’s eyes in the world would have stopped looking. She looked as though there were nothing on earth she would not look at like that, and really she was afraid of so many things. 

"And there’s not a damn thing we could do," I said.

"I don’t know," she said. "I don’t want to go through that hell again."

- The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway 

Women made such swell friends. Awfully swell. In the first place, you had to be in love with a woman to have a basis of friendship. I had been having Brett for a friend. I had not been thinking about her side of it. I had been getting something for nothing. That only delayed the presentation of the bill. The bill always came. That was one of the swell things you could count on.

—The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

My First Attempt of Writing Something Quasi-Original

It was always darker than it should be in a nice restaurant. In this particular one, the only decent light source was the candle on each table. The flickering of the fire attempted fill the room with an ambience of romance. It seemed to have failed over one table.
“How long has it been since we last saw each other?” He asked.
“About three years, I’d say.”
She didn’t seem to have much of an appetite, she hadn’t taken a bite of her salad for a while. Or maybe it was the dinner itself that made her uneasy.
“You haven’t changed much.” He remarked.
“Don’t be silly, it was only three years.”
He fell silent. That was a lie.
“How long are you going to be in town?” He tried to keep the conversation afloat. 
“A couple of days. Henry and I plan to visit a few more cities before the vacation ends.”
“Why didn’t he join us?”
“He wanted to visit the antique store we passed by the other day. Besides, he thought his presence would make the dinner awkward.”
“Very thoughtful of him.” He wanted to sound sincere.
“That was bitter.”
“It was.” He admitted.
She was always candid towards him. That was what he liked her the most. The two of them had been friends for quite some years. As a matter of fact, he regarded her as one of his closest friends. They used to talk often. But not much since she moved to another country, where she met Henry. Nevertheless, they managed not to lose contact, that was how he knew she was visiting.
“How do you find the city?”
“I quite adore her. I enjoy big cities, unlike you.”
“Indeed. If it weren’t for the job, I would rather stay in the countryside.”
“But city life is more lively and full of excitement.” She raised her voice a little. “I’m surprised you still haven’t found someone.”
“You very well know why I’m reluctant.” He looked into her eyes. They were blue like the ocean filled with wonders. The new country had treated her well, she had become more radiant.
“You are being ridiculous.” She was not reserved. “Henry and I are getting married next August.”
“Oh! Congratulations.” A mixture of surprise and disappointment.
“Charles, how miserable you have become!” She exclaimed as she put down the fork and pushed the plate aside. She saw right through him.
He was speechless. A drop of wax slid down the candle.
“You were so optimistic! Full of life!” She could not help but convey a hint of disappointment. “You were troubled but never miserable. My occasional advice is insignificant compared to what you achieved on your own. You always say the meaning of life is to find that meaning. I had told you that was one thing you must do on your own. I found mine after I moved to France, as you encouraged. And now I’m happier than ever! Don’t you think I had forgotten about you. But we are not in school anymore, separation is inevitable. This is a great city. I thought you were happy, I thought you had finally moved on.”
“But you were my soul mate! I love you!” He finally uttered those words. She could almost spot the candle light in the tears in his eyes.
“I know you do, Charles. And I you.” She touched his hand with hers, “We were close, but life goes on. We need to find our half eventually. Only yours isn’t me. It’s not cruelty, it’s the reality. You know I’m right.”
He had no words but nodded, as much to his dismay. The reason was ineffable.
He gestured the waiter.
The table was cleared and the bill brought. He knew the dinner would not last long, so he only had a crab cake.
“Would you come to our wedding?”, she asked with hope as the waiter took his payment. “It will be in Florence.”
“It would be my honour.” He managed a smile.
“Oh, Charles, I’m so glad!”, she beamed with joy. “Maybe you’ll meet someone in Italy.” She humoured.
“Maybe.” He gave it a laugh. “Let’s get you a taxi.”
He killed the candle light with his fingers as they left the table.

Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Zodiac at Nathan Phillip’s Square in #Toronto (at Nathan Phillips Square)

Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Zodiac at Nathan Phillip’s Square in #Toronto (at Nathan Phillips Square)

The National

—The Rains of Castamere

The TV show is not as good as the books, then so are most book adaptations. However, the visualization and the music are truly beautiful.