Monthly Archives: 四月 2007

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Wuthering Heights

In my attempt to catch up on some classic literature, after finishing Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, I opted for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The first time I came across this novel was, strangely enough, in one of the HKCEE Chinese set texts (HKCEE being the Hong Kong equivalent of GCSE). Renowned Taiwanese writer Bai Xian-yung (白先勇), in his memoir 驀然回首 which we studied, counted Wuthering Heights (咆哮山莊) as one of the first Western novels he was exposed to. I bought the book a year ago, but have been too preoccupied with thesis writing to read it; since it is one of the few books I’ve taken back to Hong Kong with me, it became a natural choice.

It turned out to be an easy and enjoyable read, despite the occasional unintelligible Yorkshire dialect (as spoken by a manservant). The story describes the tempestuous passion between adopted siblings Heathcliff and Catherine, followed by the devastating consequences when Catherine married someone else and later died in childbirth. The characters were all hopelessly flawed – vengeful Heathcliff, petulant Catherine and pusillanimous Edgar, trapped in a futile love triangle. That said, the plot was absorbing to the very end, and the novel worked, at least from my point of view, because I strongly disliked almost every character, to the extent that I actually care about what happens to them. I must say, however, even though the story finishes with a happy ending (albeit only for the following generation, and for Heathcliff, to an extent), I would much rather be spared the opportunity to be swept by such life-changing, all-destroying whirlwind romance. Oh well, not that I’ve ever come across the opportunity anyhow.

After reading the book, I also discovered the song Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. The music video can only be described as frightening, with Bush representing Catherine’s spirit, haunting Heathcliff’s life, singing – or, rather, squealing – out an appeal to her soulmate.

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green.
You had a temper like my jealousy:
Too hard, too greedy.
How could you leave me,
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you, too.

Bad dreams in the night
You told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I´m so cold,
let me in-a-your window

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I´m so cold,
let me in-a-your window.

Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely,
On the other side from you.
I pine a lot. I find the lot
Falls through without you.
I’m coming back, love,
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream,
My only master.

Too long I roamed in the night.
I’m coming back to his side, to put it right.
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering,
Wuthering Heights,

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I’m so cold,
let me in-a-your window.

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I’m so cold,
let me in-a-your window.

Ooh! Let me have it.
Let me grab your soul away.
Ooh! Let me have it.
Let me grab your soul away.
You know it’s me–Cathy!

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I´m so cold,
let me in-a-your window
Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy, I’ve come home. I´m so cold,
let me in-a-your window.

Heathcliff, it’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. I’m so cold.

Which brings to my mind Heathcliff’s hysterical outburst when Catherine died, the only point in the entire novel where I felt a tiny bit of sympathy for him – I’ll leave you with that passage:

‘May she wake in torment!’ he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. ‘Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there – not in heaven – not perished – where? Oh! You said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer – I repeat it till my tongue stiffens – Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe – I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’

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The title

The right-minded amongst you might well want to know what hallucinogenic drug I was on when I came up with the title of the blog. To be honest, I simply searched for the randomest combination of words. Being my typical pretentious self, I decided to bring in a reference to Greek mythology – Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to rolling a boulder up a hill repeatedly, only always to see it roll back down again. To me, human existence, including mine, is more or less Sisyphean, with us often toiling in vain and ad infinitum. The “alien" part refers to my current feeling of alienation in a city that should be so familiar and yet still seems so unreal, owing to my years of absence and the ruthless passage of time. It will likely take some getting used to. Together, I thought the title had a nice ring to it, like “Paranoid Android" perhaps, which happens to be one of my favourite Radiohead songs. If you have a better suggestion, do leave me a comment!

Sisyphus
(Sisyphus (1549), by Titian; image courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Fridge lurrrve haikus

Thought I’d share some of my highly inspired/inane fridge poetry here. My housemates bought a magnetic love poem set a few months back, and I was invited to contribute. The following are a few of my offerings (photos courtesy of Lou and Alex):

Dreamy Haiku

Yearning haiku

Sweet/silly haiku

A fourth one, which wasn’t photographed, went like this:

Blood, arms,
Bodies, eyes,
Lay alone, apart
All in the name of love
and honour
or whatever

Not exactly Lord Byron, but am rather proud.

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Who am I

Now that the world barely exists outside the so-called blogosphere, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to assert my existence, however insignificant.

Having recently uprooted myself from my adopted home town (Cambridge) for the last seven years and a half, and deserted various friends to return to my genuine home town (Hong Kong), this will hopefully serve to amuse these friends and allow them a glimpse of my current life. Whilst my life is largely going to be uneventful – no unicorn-riding under a shower of stars – I’m sure that everyone will find the feebleness laughable. If that’s the case, I will have done humanity a great favour, for presenting my life as a joke to be shared by all.

Perhaps a recap of my life thus far will be appropriate here. Born in the Year of the Monkey to a newly wed, hardly affluent couple, I was a fairly quiet child. Not exactly the sporty type, I spent my early childhood reading and writing (I doubt it was anything intelligent). Apparently I loved singing along to music played on TV too,  and dragged around with me a stuffed toy panda (complete with a big red heart in its hands – a rather gruesome idea, now that I think about it). Those who know me well would realise that I’ve hardly changed at all since – these remain my favourite pastimes (minus the panda, which perished long ago, God rest its soul), with a few rather less innocent ones acquired along the way. Aspirations to become a teacher lasted for a good many years, during which I covered wardrobes at home with writing in stolen chalk, and forced my little brother, six years my junior, to sit through test papers I set. These young and foolish dreams for power eventually faded away with the onset of adolescence, most of which I spent filling my head with trashy Canto-pop. 

Then (aged 5)

In the year of 1997 – a fateful year for my home town as well, whose sovereignty was returned to China by the British – a serendipitous opportunity opened up that sparked my love affair with the UK. (In other words, as soon as Hong Kong was back in Chinese hands, I hopped right back into the UK’s bosom, though I did not do that consciously.) Two years at a boarding school in Hampshire proved eye-opening and highly enjoyable, and they were probably key to my being admitted into Cambridge, where I spent the next seven and a half years. It would be impossible to summarise my experience in Cambridge without going on and on – suffice to say that it has been wonderful – and on this oscillating rollercoaster filled with fun, tears, sweat, silliness and heartbreak, the years simply flew by. Three years of undergraduate studies were followed by four whole years of PhD, and by the end, I was almost fooled into thinking that I might settle in the UK after all.

                  Now 2

Life, of course, threw in a surprise. While I was planning to apply mainly for UK jobs, I was introduced to a researcher at a university in Hong Kong, and before I knew it, I have agreed to work for him. For the coming year at least, I shall be stationed back in my home town. Even though I spent nearly seventeen years of my life in this skyscraper jungle, I do feel, to a certain extent, alienated here in my home town. At times I feel nigh on schizophrenic with my mentality a halfway house between Hong Kong Chinese and British. However, c’est la vie, and I’m sure I’ll manage just fine.

Henceforth, I shall record my various musings here semi-regularly. Thanks for dropping by, do keep visiting and leave a comment if you feel like.

GW

25 April 2007

 (Second photo courtesy of Sara – thanks for capturing one of my non-hideous moments.)

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