Particularly as we lay siege to a new year, one in which I hope this blog can increasingly function as a kind of open workshop, a mediation on hope may in fact be appropriate. In a chapter entitled “Printed Paper” in his immense and overflowing prolix canvas, The French Revolution, author Thomas Carlyle writes:
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. And yet, as we said, Hope is but deferred ; not abolished, not abolishable. It is very notable, and touching, how this same Hope does still light onwards the French Nation through all its wild destinies. For we shall still find Hope shining, be it for fond invitation, be it for anger and menace ; as a mild heavenly light it shone ; as a red conflagration it shines : burned sulphurous-blue, through darkest regions of Terror, it still shines ; and goes not out at all, since Desperation itself is a kind of Hope. Thus is our Era still to be named of Hope, though in the saddest sense, — when there is nothing left but Hope.
Would that more prose stylists today had the flair and the guts of a Carlyle! Or a fraction of his tempered hope. Was it decidedly anachronistic or visionary? Cleft though we be from the era of the quill pen, cogitation remains possible.
On, then, to the hopes of the future, and to the present links, which consist of China stories from the French press which you may have missed:
Such as these rare photos exhibited from French archive chronicling the docs of Shanghai in the 1940s. What would Jack Belden say, or Freda Utley, or Theodore White, or the other China hand reporters of the 1940s? How quickly the commonplace becomes the exotic, irretrievable past.
But retrieval is attempted nevertheless! Take, for instance, the fact that the Chinese government is aiming to get 1.5 million relics back from private and public collections abroad, all stemming from the looting of the Yuanmingyuan in Beijing in 1860. Fortunately such staggering reports are contextualized with television reports about the hunger among Chinese students to study French as a second language. (Does anyone else remember the Sinologisitical Violoncellist translated interview with the head of the Confucius Institute project where she said, basically, “Global domination? Hell, just give me the success of the Alliance Française and I’ll be satisfied!”)
Satisfaction might never be attained if one is fixated on enrollment figures or fiscal quarters; thus a collection of dramatic photography in Yunnan remains necessary; or, if flames be your penchant, this Chinese version of Google Earth which stirs up old territorial boundary issues.
Transnational issues abound, for the PRC is building some immense dams in Tibet; if only the CCP could hurry into the energy-efficient future! After all, French critics are wondering when the vaunted “eco cities” will truly arrive in China
Finally, there was a very nice write-up in this week’s Le Nouvel Observateur , the Paris weekly magazine, about Tibetan author Woeser and her recent work. So much good writing remains offline! Not a wholly bad thing…