Monday, 8 August 2011

When the rain stops falling

Finished The Ancient Garden with a sense of relief. Too long for me : some parts wax political, not so interesting to an ignorant non-Korean. But also because some clumsiness crept in, introduction of a Bodhisattva-type figure who is then killed off when no longer useful.

Saw the Australian play When the rain stops falling by Andrew Bovell at Circa Theatre in Wellington: some potential for muddle there - combines climat change, families and other man-made disasters...

P was ill and had to stay home. I attempted to tell him about the play when I got back and he kept on saying, But what was it about, what was it about?

It is complex and satisfying, miraculous. The miracle is familiar - a fish falls from the sky (frogs in Magnolia), and it is cradled by its catcher with reverence, for fish are extinct in 2039. The action shuttles to and fro between generations and between countries.
The fish-catcher is down and out, one Gabriel among many, ...he prepares the fish for his newly discovered son Andrew. He also passes on to him as much of the truth as he owns. This is shown in silent action - very powerful.

The actors playing an old couple who have lived together in pain and difficulty for many years were excellent, the best I've seen for a long time - very moving.

Bovell has written the screenplay for Lentana and for Strictly Ballroom . Now that I think about it, Lentana has a similar quality to this play - very powerful, but somehow - not quite right.

And I also think: If I could have written a play like that, I'd be proud.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Bowing to Basho

Reading a Korean novel, apparently a modern classic, very interesting.

On the surface only one voice, that of the narrator who is also the central character. After the death of a woman he loved, he reads the diary she left for him; the novel alternates between his voice and hers - hers is clearly different and we are aware of him reading in parallel to ourselves and how deeply some of the things she writes affect him. It is very good.

The title is The Ancient Garden: a love story, by Hwang Sok-Yong (Picador 2009), translated by Jay Oh. More and more aware of translations and translators, my main gripe with Jay is that he/she uses the American term 'dirt' which betrays the true meaning - the lovely word 'earth' would be so much better.

I am keeping track of the characters by listing them in the prelims, as well as the names of places. It is difficult to remember names that are so different that one can't even tell if they are male or female, and has no idea what they sound like.

The book speaks to me. In particular, on p. 195, describing an atmosphere and a way of paying attention:

Even in silence when [...] the air is not moving, it is soon altered by a grasshopper or a locust jumping out of the grass forest and hopping over the path. Or a frog jumping into water.
A bow to dear old Basho.