thank you, Mr Feng

January 12th, 2014

Two paragraphs from Feng Xiaogang’s autobiography:

来到新西兰,飞机落下去的时候,天刚破晓,大地一片沉寂,天空如浸在显影液里的相纸,渐渐浮现出一层层青灰色的云。走出机场,鼻子头像涂了薄荷,深深吸一口干净的空气,一路凉到肺里。刚下过一夜的雨,汽车碾着积水上路,奥克兰像一位刚刚哭过的美人走在风里。这里的七月是冬天。

Coming to New Zealand, when the plane was landing, dawn had just broken, the land was silent, the sky was like photographic paper soaking in developing solution, gradually layer after layer of grey clouds appeared. As I left the airport, it was as if peppermint had been painted on the tip of my nose. I took a deep breath of clean air, cool all the way into my lungs. It had just rained for a night, cars were rolling through pooled water, Auckland looked like a beautiful person who had just cried walking in the wind. Here July is winter.

离开新西兰,和这个赏心悦目的国家依依惜别。朋友包了饺子饯行,七天的相聚短暂又美好。好花不常开,好景不常在,今宵离别后,何日君再来?这歌词是我心情的写照。一个与我毫不相干的国家,竟让我有些眷恋。回程的飞机上,心头一直在挣扎,无数次问自己:老了,死在哪儿?

Leaving New Zealand, I reluctantly parted with this beautiful country. A friend made jiaozi for a farewell dinner, seven days together had been short but happy. A good flower doesn’t open often, one isn’t often in beautiful scenery, after we say goodbye tonight, what day will sir come again? This lyric describes how I felt. A country that had absolutely nothing to do with me, I hadn’t expected it to make me feel a certain attachment to it. On the plane back, my mind was constantly struggling, I asked myself countless times: When I’m old, where will I die?

Yes, that could be translated much better, especially the Teresa Teng lyrics – but in my defence, Feng Xiaogang didn’t remember the lyrics perfectly, anyway. And I’m not sure of his choice of lyrics, either – that song always sounded to me like a hostess in a club talking to a client, perhaps a frequent client, probably older and with a bit of money, encouraging him to run up a decent sized bill.

But the point is this: When she read that, my wife came bouncing into the room saying, “Wow, Feng Xiaogang really loves New Zealand!” and she made me read it.

And I’m thinking: So New Zealand is a beautiful place to go to to die? And what is this preoccupation with death? It reminds me in particular of his If you are the one/《非常勿扰》 films. In the first, he has Shu Qi’s character attempt suicide by jumping off a cliff in Hokkaido, and the second culminates in an assisted suicide, Sun Honglei’s terminally ill character jumping off a boat driven by his best friend, played by Ge You. So Mr Feng thinks of beautiful islands as places to go to die?

Maybe, or maybe my response is rather different from what he intended – after all, I’m not exactly his target audience. And like I said, my wife’s reaction to those two paragraphs was overwhelmingly positive. So I’m thinking, given how popular Feng Xiaogang is, that these two short paragraphs are a big advertisement for New Zealand.

The book, by the way is: 《不省心》,冯小刚著,长江文艺出版社,2013年9月。

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