Friday, November 5, 2010
Yesterday was very spectacular here – the light from the cloudless blue sky had a special edge to it - caused partly by the low arc the sun takes now which gives long shadows to the vegetation; and partly by the contrasting colours as the leaves in some of the trees turn yellow.
I spent the morning preparing a succulent lentil and vegetable soup and basking in the sun on the front verendah with another of Qiu Xiaoulong’s Shanghai detective Chen novels - Case of Two Cities – which seemed to me even better than the previous two I have read. Until now I read neither detective nor Chinese novels - Soul Mountain I had picked up by accident in the great knigomania chain of bookstores in Sofia simply because I noticed that the author, Gao Xingjian, had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I had registered that the images and language were something special but had not followed up his other writing (or painting). But Chinese writing does seem to be rather special – hardly surprising that the savagery of both the 1970s cultural revolution and the headlong race for economic growth of the past 20 years has produced such incisive perspectives on humanity. In the scale of the upheaval, cruelty and absurdity it seems to have a lot in common with Europe's experience of the Black Death and 30 Years'War! By the evening I was well through a second book – Red Dust – a path through China – as picaresque and gripping in its tales of wanderings as Soul Mountain.
I have generally found English (as distinct fromIrish or Scottish!) novelists very two dimensional – but decided to give Anthony Powell a chance – not least because one reviwer in London Review of Books called his Dance to the Music of Time “one of English fiction’s few 20th century masterpieces”. After the vitality of the Chinese novels, the writing seemd to me so puerile if not pathetic.
Valentin Mandache’s post today reminds us of the depths into which Romania sank from the 1930s.
Most European countries are looking for huge savings in their national budgets. The UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has just published a report on previous efforts to cut public spending. 15 billion of 35 billion pounds savings were actually realised – and less than 40% sustainable ie 17% success rate.