Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The guy is fairly happy painting paintings almost no one in his little town values much and teaching art to middle school students. People in his village who see inside his room see that he has many brushes and paints and paintings but they don't think much about it.

His work is displayed in the captial of his province, and an American sees it and likes it and wants to take the work to American and him to America for a year.

In the train on the way to meet the American in the provincial capital, he thinks about how until now he has lived "like a bush in a wide, open field with plenty of space around him." He lived in parallel to the other world. Now he was going to meet that other world. What would that be like?

You oculd say he gets out-manuveured by the art establishment of the small city. The American certainly gets out-manuveured as she ends up paying to bring three Chinese artists to the US, none of them him, the only one he was originally interested in.

But does he get out-manuevered? He wasn't sure he wanted to go to America, but what he thought had little to do with it once he got to the city.

At one point after he has met and talked to the American and met and talked the the artists and writers of the city, he is ready to go back to his tiny town. The art establishment people make sure the suthorities won't let him go back because his being there with the American interested in him they view as their ticket to visiting American.

In the end, several of them go, and he doesn't

The author clearly thinks he lucked out by going back to being in a large open field He seems to mostly agree. The artist seems to mostly agree. He doesn't get worked out about anything about the whole experience, which he finds interesting and odd.

When he wants to go back to his village because he has students to teach and paintings to work on, one of the artists trying to climb on his back to the US brings him paint and brushes. But he thinks, "How can I paint here?" In the shoddy fancy hotel, the best hotel in the provincial capital.

He knows the Western suit they've gotten him to wear is not a good example of a Western suit. He has an artist's eye. He knows that the hotel's decor is pretentious and odd. He doesn't care much. He doesn't care at all that when he and his would-be patron met in the lobby of the hotel without being introduced, she asked him to carry her bags to his room. He looked around and didn't see and attendant, so he took her bags to her room.

That happened to him more than once with foreigners at that hotel, but he didn't cre much. He didn't wildly believe what the art establishment people had to say either, or base his plans on it.

When they had managed to get their trips to America and managed to get him, unused to alcohol very drunk in front of the American so she didn't like him any more, he got sent back to the village. Which was fine with him, even good. He isn't all worked up about that either.

He'll go back to painting landscapes of land he has been watching all his life, painting pagodas he has watched slowly fall apart and be beautiful. The author thinks that is good, and he probably thinks it's pretty good.

But the last image is of him putting on his old jacket, not the shoddy Western suit anymore, and getting lice from the old jacket. As we leave him, he is on the train home, scratching.

In the open field, if you know how to be yourself, you won't get interrupted by people with fierce, sophisticated idea about what you should do, and you can keep growing as the plant you are. There may be issues about comfort.

--This is about the story "The Other World" from the book "As Long As Nothing Happens, Nothing Will," by Zhang Jie, translated by Gladys Yang, Deborah J. Leonard, and Zhang Andong.