About “Submission”


This book is a contemporary masterpiece. One might not find it appealing, since it talks about the well-known boring academic life, where nearly no one gets to do research on their chosen topic, or simply read what they want. However, the author portrays a middle-aged professor who is intelligent, melancholy, depressive, and yet very French. Maybe it’s not fair to say “very French”, but it is the French sensibility I’ve read in its literature.

Indeed, there is something very French about this book, about the characters, the past, present and the future as well. The pace of the narration mirrors even Sagan, saying, Bonjour tristesse! Salut Life! Being an expert on 19th century French literature, where Baudelaire brought the “depressive disease” at the turn of the century, the protagonist knows all about sensitivity, being an intellectual, politics, privilege, visiting prostitutes and strolling…Only the social background changed a bit, as the protagonist talked about with his colleague in the book, about the death of the Europe, the demise of the capital of the Europe!

Sometimes, I could smell the indifference Camus brought to our awareness. That, also strikes me to think about all the terror attacks happened recently. Some of the reviewers have already pointed out that both French edition and English edition have been published around a turbulent time in France, namely charlie hebdo shooting and other attacks in a year or two. Although this book is talking about the near future 2020, which could end up in science fiction section, it is actually much easier to become reality right now. Now, in the year of 2017, when the author still describes it as a future, Marine Le Pen with the National Front could soon take the whole story, and turn it upside down, the book is already nothing funny as it says on the blurb, but scary.

When Abbes comes into power, how on earth could he understand Camus’ indifference with the tight kinship background. But yet the transformation for women to stay at home and wear veils have been smooth, not much confrontation. But where, should we put our Walter Benjaminian bourgeois sorrow? Nothing matters. When the change happens, we flow with the change — a typical psychopath reaction. But there lies the thrill, doesn’t it?

And there is also the title “submission”. As a professor, submission could mean a bit different for the protagonist than other people. But for the ending, submission also means to yield. The question is, to what “we” superior force do we give our submission to? Religion? Humanity? Life? Among some issues, author sounds like Dostoyevsky, only with a much more peaceful reasoning, but still, the stormy conversation in big chunk paragraphs. It’s reminiscent like history at all times.

Happy ending or happy editing?

img_1882I have never been a big fan of any zoos. As a kid, zoos are more like a stinky place to go, and the animals are either not moving or too far to see. I especially remember one panda in the zoo in my city, reached a pretty old recordable age — thirty six if I’m not mistaken — always had his/her butt to the fans, admirers or visitors. I was not amused. Zoos in China never cultivate me any enthusiasm about caring animals, the myth of them and so on, rather, I name the stuffed animals every time I got after the zoo visiting. You know, just to make them human, and create a happy ending.

But today, “culling” as a keyword stuck into my mind after reading the article in New Yorker “Killing Animals at the Zoo“. I didn’t know about it, that they are killing healthy animals in the name of culling, and when Parker writes the reason to kill the healthy male giraffe is “genetically unnecessary”, I felt the coldness of words, of how human brain works. The logic! I saw machines that made by people, functioning. Surely as they state, surplus animals could be exchanged but there is no fairy-tale world, once there is the birth, there is the death. But did the baby Marius got the right to choose his euthanised death? No. Genetical engineers had it. It reminds me an article also from New Yorker I read years ago, it was about an institution called BGI in China, I think, about genes and research. Is it really soon that we could edit life and death, starting the practice from animals?

On the other hand, there is a public dissection including school kids. While the newly wed are talking about how to educate their future children about where do they come from or about death, kids are displayed with dismembering a dead animal scene. Yes, it’s a more direct introduction. Is it good ? Maybe Danish people are right, as the first country to legalise pornography. They are as open as we could ever imagine, but still, I hold my opinion on it. Being exposed to such an act, even with the purest scientific purpose, the seed of cruelty could emerge and grow. Is it because “science” has been unlimited exaggerated, and “feelings” have been neglected? Maybe a balance could be better.

More and more often, I see photos on a Chinese media mobile portal from car accidents suicide sites and so on, bloody photos have been published with few blurs. When these have been normalised by the media, people’s gonna “tolerant” more bloody photos or scenes. It’s like a training. And once the education is missing in this specific part, it is not a promising road.

Somehow, I still believe in happy endings, and this is under the condition of knowing there could be as much cruelty as I don’t know in the world. I still feel cold-blooded toward the words “genetically unnecessary”, when rare and precious in the mammals world is the top priority, they could edit a precious giraffe, and kill the un-wanted ones, what if once again, we think Hitler is unique, will the moral boundaries be set up towards it?

To my Tracy

New Year’s first accomplishment in book is by Zadie Smith. Not the first Zadie Smith, certainly not the last one. For this super length book, I ventured again with Audio books (ca. 17 hours unabridged). With a British accent, this audio book is highly recommended, since it creates an atmosphere that residents in London, bearing an upbringing in London, and as cosmopolitan as London.

The story is about the narrator, her girlhood, girl-woman friendship with peers, mother-daughter relationship, half-cast people’s identity, currently society and so on. It covers quite some areas, and the beautiful part of this book is, there are so many details among these topics are neglected by us, drawn in the chaotic busy daily lives. Zadie Smith noticed and writes about it.

Protagonists with normal jobs, common problems, she certainly catches the most intriguing sentence to define our emotions. There are many times while I was reading the book, I thought Zadie’s narration and feeling could be so true and common in so many cultures. Not a slap to those who are scared of globalisation, but Zadie portrays them in the most mundane tone. Yes, we are surrounded by various believes and environments and changes, girls, or say, women, deal with it, dance with it, as the time goes by.

The novel has a beautiful but yet a bit cliche ending. I would recommend it, especially to those girls who I lost the relationship with on the way to the adulthood: you are my Tracy.