Saturday, September 20, 2008

Memory and Forgetfulness

Memories are funny things. Truth is, we never forget anything - just that we don't bother to recall some things is all. Case in point: I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Listened to J. M. DeMatteis talking about "The Brothers Karamazov" in a recent podcast interview (part one and part two). Then I took down my old copy of the novel from the shelves (got this from this convict, Glyn, that I met - Pltypus was there too - in the Father's Guest House, Cameron Highlands). I remembered devouring the novel back in 1996. I was still working at a computer-learning center in Ampang. Just turned twenty (like Alyosha in the book) and naively stupid in so many ways. The book was heavily annotated, underlined and highlighted - I'm rereading it and smile everytime I remember the thoughts of that 20-year old version of me when I look at the portions I underlined/highlighted. In many ways, I don't really identify with that version of me anymore (although I don't think I'm really wiser now!). Anyway, I'm glad that I picked up the novel again. It's a deeply spiritual experience and joy to read Dostoevsky. I hope I never grow too old to forget this.

Some months back, I visited an old man in the Cancer Ward, SJMC. He's in his 70s/80s and was undergoing chemotherapy in the Cancer Ward. We talked about books. He's got a huge library at home with thousands of books. He started reading "the classics" only after his retirement but he never stopped. He doesn't read English so it took him some time to hunt down all those books in Chinese translation. His favourites include Cervantes' "Don Quixote", Gogol's "Dead Souls" and anything by Tolstoy. My wife and I helped him to get the Chinese translation of Tolstoy's Journals and he gave me his treasured copy of Gogol's "Dead Souls". It is a joy to meet someone who's so obviously enraptured by the simple act of reading.

Finally, a toast to Glyn. [Is the bloke still alive?] I remember giving him my copies of "The Idiot" and Tennyson's poems. :)

4 comments:

Jonathan Erdman said...

Your links to the podcast took me to a spiderman podcast.....I'm guessing that's not where I was supposed to be taken!

I would be interested in the podcast you mentioned.

Thanks,
jon

Uncle Screwtape said...

Hi Jon,

The links work just fine. I am linking to the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast set up by my bud, Brad Douglas. He interviewed writer J.M. DeMatteis recently and they discussed J.M.'s classic work "Fearful Symmetry" (a mixture of Russian-literature, William Blake and straight-out superhero fare).

J.M. was talking about "The Brothers Karamazov" and how he stole the names of the brothers for Kraven's children.

Here at Jeremiah Blues, we learn our Lit. from comics and we learn our comics from Lit. :)

Have fun...

~ Edmund

Mindy McAdams said...

I have to tell you a crazy off-topic thing. I teach journalism at a university in the U.S. My classes have nothing to do with Malaysia. But I have visited Malaysia several times, and in fact once lived there for eight months. So imagine my surprise when I'm checking links in a blog post by one of my Florida students -- she linked right here, to this post. I'm reading along, thinking hm, hm, hm, yes, yes -- and SUDDENLY I read "in Ampang." IN AMPANG? I'm thinking, you're kidding me, right? This blog is from Malaysia? And sure enough ...

So file this under: We live in a small world. Greetings from a small corner in a semi-tropical corner of it, where one O.P. still craves roti canai and can still clearly picture Jalan Ampang.

Uncle Screwtape said...

Hi Mindy,

Thanks for your comment.

Speaking of Ampang, I'm so glad that I'm moving back there (after leaving for about 10 years).

~ Edmund