Monday, February 4, 2013
GLENN MOTT'S ANALECTS ON A CHINESE SCREEN
Before the reading, Simon introduced me to a friend of his, Glenn Mott, a fellow ex-pat. Simon spent a lot of his life in foreign lands, including China, in the foreign service. Mott spent his time abroad, also much of it in China, as a teacher and journalist. The book he gave me, after we talked for a while in a way that made me want to read it immediately, and I did, was ANALECTS ON A CHINESE SCREEN.
Confucius's ANALECTS didn't used to rate as high on my favorite book list as Lao Tzu's TAO TE CHING (or whatever spelling you prefer for both his name and his supposed writing), but I did study it as part of my minor in Asian studies back in the 1960s and got in trouble for writing a paper for my exiled Chinese professor that had as its title, "Confucius: Proto-Fascist"—and I have read newer translations over the years that made me soften my initial reaction and find some profound wisdom in some of Confucius's precepts.
Mott's ANALECTS ON A CHINESE SCREEN is not a translation or even an extended riff on Confucius's book (as much as any of these ancient texts can be called anyone's book), it's a series of takes on the China he experienced as it interacted with his life, in and out of China, and his reading, including not just Confucius but Oscar Wilde and John Clare as well as others. And it is a totally engaging and original book (if I would compare it to anything it would be Gary Snyder's EARTH HOUSEHOLD, only faster and condensed), which I highly recommend.
No quote from it could capture the variety of textual shape and content, and a lot of the lines are too long for this blog page format, but I'll leave you with a little taste from two tiny segments:
in the thought
the dead end
"When a dog runs to you, whistle for him.
He will think he knows you.
Hearing an old set of retouched
affections, in his bafflement."