​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Selections from Ah! 《啊!》
by
Feng Jicai  冯骥才


      [Fannyi –This is a selection of chapters from a novella. We selected the chapters for translation based solely on their length – or rather, the lack thereof – a criteria necessitated by our translator's problematic attention span. Since so many chapters were omitted, the translation does not "flow" like a complete story. However, the reader will still get an idea of what the novel is all about, as well as a taste of life in academia during China's Cultural Revolution.
      [The full novella is available in Chinese (along with many other works) from the
读书369 website at http://www.dushu369.com/zhongguomingzhu/fjczpj/a/, from which these chapters were translated.]

Chapter One

      The weather in early spring is exceptionally beautiful. The pale blue color of the limitless sky gets taken over by brilliantly shining sunlight, and birds fly up into the skies with all their might to greet the geese coming from afar with the approaching spring.
      Its scent is often bound up with the fragrance of melting snow.
      With its first steps, it treads straight into the human and natural worlds where the cold still prevails. It uses the primal vitality of a universe filled with life’s energy to crack open the frozen rivers, to loosen and revitalize the frozen soil, and to make the myriads of things which have shrunk back in the cold open up again, and soften, and teem with vitality. It fills every kind-hearted person with hope and imagination.
      Spring: it not only brings hope, new life, beauty, uplifting strength, teeming nature and a colorful new world; it also comes with cordial and sincere revelations, thick callouses on laborers’ hands, blueprints for the future, the smoke of fighting for the truth, young ladies’ tender glances, charming nocturnes woven into sweetness, easy living, poetry and sparkling life.
      It has never let people down. It adheres strictly to the season, and contributes all its wealth to the people generously and selflessly.
      Ah! Spring is so good!
      However, all this is irrelevant and superfluous for the one-hundred-plus people now sitting in the courtyard of the History Research Institute. Not one of them had the heart to raise their head and take in the early spring sky.
      They were about to drag someone else in!

Chapter Two

      Two things indicated that there was some extraordinary urgency and gravity about the all-school meeting called for today.
      One was that five persons on long-term sick leave and eleven retirees would be there. They'd received a notice of the meeting which said, "No absences allowed", so no one dared refuse or make up an excuse for not coming. Now they were all sitting in a crooked line behind the plaza where the meeting would be held.
      The other was that two people who’d gone to the
Banpo Museum in Xian to study cultural relics got an urgent telegram from the Department yesterday morning. They’d returned that very night and at this moment were sitting in the middle of the crowd.
      Chairman Hao of the Department’s Revolutionary Committee, a short, dark fellow with a mediocre, wooden-faced appearance, rose to speak. He held in his hands a document sent down from his superiors which he read from as though it were a bible. It called for the immediate opening of a campaign. He coughed and grunted and stammered as he read, and mispronounced a number of the words.
      After he finished Jia Dazhen, a cadre doing political work who had just returned from holding an emergency political conference in the city, stood up on the stage. He was tall and slender, and wore a stylish green military cap emblazoned with a revolutionary symbol. He bore a frighteningly serious look on his boney face, and spoke in a ruthless tone of voice using the ruthless expressions popular at the time. This is how his speech concluded:
      "While we have engaged in many campaigns, we have not been thorough. Intellectuals have piled up in this unit of ours. The class composition is complex and filled with hidden dragons and crouching tigers. A numerous bunch of evil people, big ones and little ones, is mixed in with us. Some are history but some are current; some are in the open but some are hidden. We cannot lay down our guard or sleep soundly with our heads on a pillow. Tolerance toward the enemy is a crime against the revolution. Don’t many people jump out and put on a show during campaigns? Now is the time to settle up with them for once and for all. And for those guys who are hidden deeply, we’ll dig as deep as we have to to dig them out!
      “This campaign is special for its fierce energy, its huge determination and its detailed action. On the one hand, it will mobilize a giant political offensive and open a comprehensive attack on class enemies. On the other, all problems and suspects will be dealt with thoroughly at one time. Those with a black stain in their history will be thoroughly reinvestigated and reevaluated and new verdicts will be rendered. We are determined that not one single enemy will slip through!
      “Moreover, this campaign will be prosecuted widely throughout the community. We will cast a wide net in which we will catch all our enemies. The leaders above us have said, 'Kill all who should be killed, arrest all who should be arrested, control all who should be controlled!' We must act immediately to meet the new wave of large-scale exposures, accusations and criticisms in this upsurge of the great class struggle!"

      Obviously, people's lives will soon be swept up in a ferocious frenzy. Everything is about to change – the stuff of life, the people, their ideas, their relationships and mutual feelings.
      And then there is the air. The air seems not to flow any more. It has thickened and abruptly filled with the taste of gunpowder.

Chapter Four

      As Wu Zhongyi was on the way home, he couldn’t say how he felt about things. In short, he felt like he was stopped up inside, uncomfortable and troubled. All the lines of his research, where he was making great progress, would be interrupted to deal with the endless small-scale and large-scale meetings, the exposures and the criticisms. In addition, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on was making him uneasy. He also thought, though, that he’d always walked the straight and narrow and had never made the slightest mistake. All things considered, he was luckier and better off than Qin Quan and Zhang Dingchen. What a blessing peace and quiet is!
      "What of it? It's got nothing to do with me! At home in the evenings I can do all the research I’ve always done. All those books and treatises I’ve been keeping at work, I’ll bring them home with me after work tomorrow!”
      That thought calmed him down for the moment. He opened the door and walked through the depressingly dark corridor to climb the stairs. His room was on the second floor. Just then his downstairs neighbor, Auntie Yang – a chubby, stupid but warm-hearted lady from Shandong Province – heard him and called out to him:
      "Comrade Wu, there’s a letter for you. Here!”
      "A letter? Oh, it’s from my brother. Thank you." He bowed slightly, nodded his head and took the letter with a smile.
     “It’s a registered letter,” Auntie Yang said. “The postman said he delivers twice a day, but you’re always in class, so I put my chop on it for you. I was afraid it might be urgent and didn’t want to delay your getting it...."
      "It might be a photo of my nephew. Thanks. Really sorry to bother you!" As he spoke, he went up to his room with the letter pinched between his fingers.
      When he opened the letter and looked, there were no photos, only two pages of letter-sized paper covered with writing. He thought, “What is it that required a registered letter?” His brother had never sent him one before, so presumably he had a special reason this time....
      His tiny gray eyes took in the first sentence: "I must tell you something. Don’t be afraid!" His eyes immediately flashed in shock, like a pair of small flashlight bulbs when the power is turned up a notch. After he’d skimmed the letter in alarm, bouncing from sentence to sentence, he felt like he’d suffered a heavy blow to the head!
      Suddenly he noticed that the door was open and something white was shimmering in the darkness outside. It seemed to be a face. He hurried to the door to look, but no one was there. He stepped back inside right away and shut the door tightly, bolting and locking it.
      Standing in the middle of the room, he read the letter again from the top. He felt that a disaster had fallen on him, like a huge meteorite flying straight from the boundless sky onto his head. It seemed like a major earthquake had come out of nowhere, collapsing the roof and the floor all of a sudden, and him along with them. He had no sense that he still stood in the middle of the room.

[Fannyi – The letter revealed that Wu Zhongyi’s brother and some friends had participated in questionable political activities in which Wu Zhongyi himself had later become peripherally involved. Wu Zhongyi wrote back to his brother but lost the reply before he could mail it.]


Chapter Eleven

      The first day of the campaign, the entire department received only a dozen or so Letters of Accusation from people informing on someone. One of these "materials" informed on a long-time office clerk named Chen. On two occasions during the “request for instructions” formalities before work, he had held his quotations book upside down – this letter and a couple of essays were the only things to take care of. The other items were mostly trivial.
      The Working Group therefore issued an order: From this day forward, everyone would be required to submit at least one Report and Accusation Letter every day. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave work at quitting time.
      Things appeared more relaxed in the office that day. A female comrade named Zhu Lan in the Modern History Section had been transferred to the Working Group to do external investigations. Qin Quan wasn’t there.
      It was said that a Supervise and Reform Group had been set up for the Section, and that Qin Quan and a few other old-timers with long-term problems had been accepted into it. They were to be strictly monitored and not allowed to go home at night. Qin Quan’s
big character poster, “Please Expose and Criticize Me Ruthlessly”, had been folded in thirds and was still on the table, held down by a box of ink. It looked like a relic.
      Wu Zhongyi sat there like he was waiting for the Work Group to call him in and tell him that the letter he'd written to his brother had been turned in by whoever had found it. He was going to admit his guilt obediently in all respects. He’d be beaten savagely and thrown into the Supervise and Reform Group, where he’d keep Qin Quan company.
      He looked at the Report and Accusation Letter spread open in front of him. It wouldn’t do not to write one, but he had nothing to write. It made him truly understand what "sitting on a bed of needles" felt like. His boney ass was tired of sitting and he kept shifting back and forth on the chair. It wasn’t just him; others were doing so as well.
      Time. It gets frittered away in this manner by everybody, passing by arduously in an empty rush.
      Cui Jingchun came in. Everyone in the room fixed their eyes on the Accusation Letters in their hands, pretending to be lost in thought. Then Zhang Dingchen stood up. He was holding two pieces of paper, and he stepped forward to hand them to Cui Jingchun. He looked humble. Stumbling over his words, he whispered:
      "This is my application to have the leadership deduct ten yuan per month from my salary to make up for the
fixed interest paid to me over ten years as compensation for assets nationalized after Liberation. This is money I obtained by exploitation. I should not have taken it, and I’m voluntarily returning it.... The other sheet is a Report and Accusation Letter about my uncle. Before Liberation, when he had a store, he mixed a lot of white sand in with the rice he sold, cheating the working people. The details are set out in the letter.”
      Cui Jingchun remained expressionless as he listened. Then he asked, "Where is your uncle now?"
      "He’s dead. Died in ’59."
      "He’s dead and you’re informing on him?" The serious and flat expression on his face started to give way to a look of contempt as he said that. He took the two sheets of paper and walked away.
      As Zhang Dingchen returned to his seat, his eyes glazed over. He was chewing on Cui Jingchun’s words, wondering what they meant.
      Wu Zhongyi wanted to write something in the Accusation Letter he was holding in his hands that would be appropriate to report to the leaders, but there was no room in his head to recall or think of such things. His mind was filled with all kinds of muddled thoughts about the letter he had lost. He unconsciously put pen to paper and wrote the word "letter" in the Accusation Letter. He was surprised when he saw what he'd written and felt like this ominous word would reveal all his secrets. He hurried to smear a big black blob over the word and completely covered it. Just at that moment, Zhao Chang came into the room.
      He folded up the Inform Letter right away and pressed down on it like he was killing a grasshopper. Zhao Chang plopped his butt down in the chair beside him and smiled. "What are you writing?" he asked. "Can you let me see it?"
      Wu Zhongyi quickly said that he hadn't written anything. He clutched the paper in his hand, not willing to let Zhao Chang take a look. He seemed a little nervous, even panicky. This made Zhao, who was on the alert, mistakenly think that Wu had been writing something about him and was panicky because he'd narrowly missed seeing it.
      But Zhao acted naturally on the surface. He patted Wu's shoulder and continued to smile. "You've got to seek truth from facts, as they say. Writing blindly will get you into trouble. You can keep writing, I'm leaving!" He lifted his butt out of the chair and walked away.
      Zhao Chang stopped abruptly in the corridor after he'd walked out the door. He dug out a cigarette and lit it, and sucked in several puffs one after the other. The clouds of smoke that came out of his mouth swirled around and around like the clouds of suspicion in his mind. He speculated about Wu Zhongyi's unusual behavior just now. He excluded various possibilities, but in the end he couldn't make a definite judgment. He suspected very strongly that Wu Zhongyi was scheming against him – mostly he worried that Wu would inform on him for what he'd said that time after he'd been drinking – in order to get him demoted from his position as a "Group Leader"....
      When he thought of that, he rushed back to his own room to think about countermeasures, leaving a cloud of smoke to dissipate slowly in the corridor behind him.


Chapter Fourteen

      Zhao Chang sat with a group of seven or eight people from the Modern History Section. Things were quiet on the surface, but if you watched closely on the QT, you’d sure enough notice that Wu Zhongyi wasn’t himself.
      His face was the color of a whitewashed wall, and his eyes kept darting back and forth behind his glasses. He would immediately lower his eyelids whenever anyone looked at him, to avoid their scrutiny. Zhao Chang deliberately tried several times, but the result was always the same.
      Wu wore a worried and sickly look, and obviously was not in the mood. Sometimes he’d stare out the window or at a corner of the room. He was able to stare blankly for up to half an hour, during which time a look of fear and misery would be spread across his face. If someone addressed him or if there was a sudden sound, his whole body would tremble in fear like a sparrow startled by a noise.
      Unusual behavior is a symptom of someone who is not paying attention to his surroundings. It often leads to mistakes. Wu Zhongyi normally didn’t dress neatly, not caring about his appearance. Everyone was used to him being like that and didn’t think it unusual.
      But Zhao Chang made a point of looking carefully and saw that something was wrong. Wu's cheeks were stained, he had sleep in the corners of his eyes and his neck was black. He hadn’t washed his face well in probably four or five days. Also, no comb had made an appearance in his hair for several days; it was disheveled as a bird’s nest made of autumn grass. And he’d gotten unexpectedly thin. His cheekbones stuck out from his sunken cheeks like reefs at ebb tide, and there were faint black circles around his eyes.
      "Does he have insomnia?" Zhao wondered. "What exactly is going on? Could he have some kind of problem?”
      He looked at Wu Zhongyi’s pathetic appearance and started to feel compassion; he and Wu had gotten along together for ten years or so, and no matter how he looked at this honest, kind and humble fellow, he could find no grounds for hating him. He even had an idea – that the two of them should talk it all out at one time, to get to the bottom of things, and that he could give the guy a hand.
      But then he thought, no, that really wouldn’t do. If Wu Zhongyi really did have a serious problem, he himself might get trapped and be implicated. Besides, he still couldn't rule out the possibility that the guy might expose him. The greater Wu's problem was, the greater the chance that the guy would expose him to lighten his own difficulty.
      People who do research for a living all have a certain way of thinking: When indicators point to various possibilities, one must research them further before reaching a conclusion; one's conjectures are reliable only when all theories that can't be denied have been grasped.
      Cui Jingchun called Wu Zhongyi out for a talk before lunch. Three minutes after they went out, Zhao Chang also left the room. He walked around the corridors twice and discovered that the two of them were talking in the Local History Section's empty room. He stopped briefly outside the door, but they were speaking softly and he couldn't hear clearly.
      During lunch, amidst the noisy crowd in the cafeteria, Zhao Chang saw through the fog-like steam from the food that Cui Jingchun was sitting alone at a table eating his meal. He carried his tray over and sat down beside him. After eating a few mouthfuls, he whispered, "What were you and Wu Zhongyi doing just now?"
      Cui lifted his head and looked at Zhao. "Nothing," he said in a normal voice, "just talking."
      "What did he talk about?"
      Cui glanced at Zhao again. "He didn't say anything," he repeated, still in a normal voice. From the look of things, he didn't want to tell Zhao the contents of their conversation.
      Zhao Chang thought, "These things he doesn't want to tell me, could they have been about me?" The idea that Wu Zhongyi was thinking of harming him got stronger again. He no longer felt any pity for Wu. He just wanted to ruin the man quickly in order to ensure his own safety.
      He finished eating in haste and went back to the Working Group. There he told Jia Dazhen about the valuable discoveries he'd made that morning in the Modern History Section, with some embellishment added.
      Jia nodded his sharp chin and smiled happily. He seemed pleased with himself. He was satisfied with Zhao Chang's harvest, and also satisfied with his own acute perceptions and subtle calculations of Wu Zhongyi the previous day.
      He said, "I'll ask Cui Jingchun to put some pressure on him."
      "I think Cui might not be able to do that," Zhao said. He followed up by telling Jia that Cui Jingchun and Wu Zhongyi had had a conversation before lunch in the Local History Section's empty room, out of the public eye. Then he said, "What you said yesterday was right on. Cui Jingchun isn't too active during campaigns. I think the atmosphere in the Modern History Section is quite relaxed. But Cui didn't seem happy about me coming over to their group."
      Jia's face turned ugly with anger. He snorted twice and said, "Then I'll personally put pressure on him! I've designed a unique meeting for tomorrow and the leaders have agreed. You wait and see! I guarantee that the fish hidden under the water will be jumping out by themselves, one after the other!"


Chapter Nineteen

      Jia Dazhen showed no emotion as he looked at the copy of the lost letter that Wu Zhongyi had written from memory. His attitude seemed to indicate that he'd already read it dozens of times, suggesting that he had possession of the original. But a light occasionally flashed in his eyes which would have betrayed the fresh feelings in his heart, if anyone had been able to see it.
      Eventually he put this copy of the letter down on the table and asked Wu Zhongyi, “Do you think you were being honest?”
      "Yes. I didn’t want to cover up anything that was written in the letter, because you have your ways and could check on it.”
      Jia Dazhen nodded in satisfaction. He picked up the letter and put it in a drawer along with the dozen or so pages of materials that Wu Zhongyi had turned over. He seemed as happy as a hunter who had bagged a rabbit.


Chapter Twenty-One

      He was at ease for now.
      For a time, he’d seemed like a bird caught in an eddy during a gale, careening and struggling, but now he’d dropped to a safe spot on the ground. It couldn’t have been worse, but now it was at an end and there was no need to be afraid any longer.
      Really they were worse off than dogs. Every day in the Supervise and Reform Group, he’d cry out along with the others to go outside, just to be shooed back in. They were manipulated to do what someone else wanted; they were dominated and abused; and they weren’t allowed to ask questions or talk back or defend themselves.
      If you happened to lose your temper a bit at times, you were asking for trouble because it could only lead to more severe lessons. Especially when Chen Gangquan was in charge. He had no place to expend his excess energy and used torturing people as a release.
      One time when Wu Zhongyi inadvertently offended him, Chen punched Wu’s hand with his fist. The ring finger of Wu’s left hand was dislocated. It remained crooked after the swelling went down, which was enough to make Wu remember that lesson the rest of his life.
      People like Wu Zhongyi, who had been ferreted out, needed to have the rough edges ground off their personalities. They needed to cast aside any thought of saving face and to regard their dignity as just so much dung. They had to nod blindly and accept whatever rude terminology was used to label them, and even pretend to accept it all with heartfelt gratitude – this was the model for making it through the life they were living.
      But Zhang Dingchen didn’t suffer at all during the Supervise and Reform period.
      Someone with Wu Zhongyi's temperament shouldn’t have suffered, either, but he did, and quite a bit! Mostly it was because of his brother, who he had once tried tenaciously to protect. He’d tried with all his might not to bring his own problems down onto his brother, but that was easier said than done.
      For one thing, there was an internal connection in the matter. They each implicated the other and could not be separated. It was like, knowing the contents of the letter he’d lost, a person would inexorably be led to ask questions about the contents of his brother’s letter, which he had no way to deny.
      And then, the more he'd tried not to say anything, the more vicious and extraordinary the methods Jia Dazhen had used on him became. There were no means of psychological attack stronger than those of Jia Dazhen, and supported by the use of clubs, they’d forced him from a defensive position on every detail to a position too awkward to defend. They led straight to his informing on his brother and his brother’s friends’ "reading club", including everything that his brother had said that night at his friend’s house....
      After two months he was taking things more in stride. Except for the times he was taken to a Department-wide meeting to be struggled against with Qin Quan and the others, usually he was not taken out to be interrogated very much anymore. The Working Group had probably sent someone to his brother’s and his friend’s places to investigate and verify the facts.
      He didn’t see Zhao Chang during this period, but after some time, he saw him while he was sweeping the yard. His face was thinner and quite tanned. He looked like a round earthen jar.
      Zhao Chang was again subjected to a storm of violent attacks after he’d been back a few days. He was taken away for interrogation several days in a row, sometimes lasting into the middle of the night. He was also criticized and denounced at Department-wide meetings in order to increase the pressure on him, and it completely exhausted him in mind and body.
      Jia Dazhen brought out a large number of materials, all of which were denunciations of Wu Zhongyi by people in the "Reading Club" that year – he’d exposed them, which led them to inform on him. Each of the denunciations was at least five or six pages in length, but one of them exposing his arguments about the state system that night was over fourteen pages.
      Obviously these materials included some elaboration because his betrayal had incited a desire for revenge in the others. There were also some things that couldn’t be remembered because of the lapse of time. People had ended up simply signing their names and adding their fingerprints to the materials, admitting their truth.
      In the beginning, after he was forced to expose his brother, he was filled with a sense of deep guilt and remorse. Then he realized that his betrayal would cause his brother and his sister-in-law to endure renewed suffering, and he came to a point where he considered suicide. He was ashamed to be living in this world. His relationship with his brother and sister-in-law had been severed, that much was certain. He thought he had become a selfish and cowardly clown, but the thing was, he lacked the courage and determination to end his own life....
      But now Jia Dazhen said that his brother had also written a large volume of materials exposing him. During his interrogations by Jia Dazhen, he’d heard nothing specific about what his brother had exposed. Still, he believed quite strongly that his brother had done so. And that being the case, it would cancel out his actions, cancel out the unforgivable sin of betraying his brother.
      What position were his brother and sister-in-law in now, exactly?


Chapter Twenty-Four

      He was going home. He'd been released at last and was going home. He was like a bird set free from its cage with no entanglements or burdens, its whole body fluttering. If he lifted his two arms, he could fly straightaway into the sky....
      On the way, he spent what little money he had with him to buy a bottle of beer, some food and a few pieces of candy. He intended to go home and have a bit of a celebration for himself. He hadn’t had anything to drink yet, but he felt like one of the
Eight Immortals when they got drunk. He couldn’t keep a grip on his center of gravity and staggered as he walked.
      It was already the thirty-ninth day after the winter solstice, said to be the coldest time of the year, and it was indeed fiercely cold. He wasn’t wearing a cap, but his cheeks were scalding hot.
      He arrived home for the first time in more than six months. He walked into the gloomy building and saw his neighbor Auntie Yang shoveling coal in the walkway. Her little grandson was beside her with a toy shovel, trying to help but just getting in the way. When she saw Wu Zhongyi, she called out in surprise, "What? Comrade Wu! You’re back?"
      "Yeah!" He replied happily.
      "You, weren’t you...." She started to speak but then hesitated. She obviously knew that he'd been in trouble, but didn’t know his current situation, so it was hard to know what to say. She stood there with the shovel in her hand, looking embarrassed.
      Wu Zhongyi didn’t know what to say, either.
      Auntie Yang smiled unnaturally. "First go on upstairs and light your stove and get warmed up," she said to cover the awkwardness. Panicky, she went into her room quickly, pulling her chubby and not very agile grandson behind her. It was as if Wu Zhongyi were a patient just released from a hospital for people with infectious diseases.
      He didn't mind. He thought he'd come downstairs after a while and clear things up for her.
      When he opened the door and entered his room, it smelled strongly of dank humidity. Everything in the room was the same as it had been, and yet it looked a bit strange. The knick-knacks, the bed, the desk, the chair, the cups – they all seemed to have stopped cold just when he came bursting in. When they were clear that their owner had returned, they seemed to have leapt toward him lovingly with impulsive enthusiasm. He also sprang toward his inanimate life partners. But they were so dirty, painted a certain color by the dust.
      He went around the room wondering what to clean first. He forced himself to calm down, and finally decided to light the stove. Fortunately he'd been imprisoned in the spring, before he'd put the stove away, so now it was ready to use and he could warm up the room right away.
      His mood changed as soon as his hand touched the paper ashes in the stove. It was the remains of the scrap writing paper that he'd burned that morning, and it made him think of his brother and sister-in-law. He felt terrible and decided to go to his sister-in-law's mother's place that evening, to find out where his brother and sister-in-law were now. But how could he explain everything to them? No matter what, he didn't dare just write them a letter.
      His hands got dirty while he was lighting the fire. When he went to wash them, he found that some water left in the basin had frozen into a solid chunk of ice. After he'd lost that letter, he'd been terror stricken for several days and had rarely washed his face. Mostly he'd just wiped his face with a towel dipped in water in the basin, without paying much attention. He hadn't changed the water for days, so the piece of basin-shaped ice was dark gray and opaque.
      He picked up the basin and turned it over, thinking he'd knock the ice out by hitting it against the stovetop. Suddenly, something caught his attention. There was a letter stuck to the outside bottom of the basin!
      With a strange feeling, he put the basin down and tore the letter off. He looked, and was so shocked his head started to shake involuntarily, hard enough that it almost knocked his glasses to the floor! He couldn't believe it, but it was the letter he'd lost, the letter that had almost cost him his life!
      The stamp was fixed solidly to the top of the letter, and the flap was sealed firmly. Apparently, when he'd finished writing the letter that day, he'd nonchalantly smeared paste on the envelope for the stamp and the flap. After he'd sealed it, he'd washed his face and put the washbasin down on the table. The bottom side of the basin was wet, and some excess paste on the envelope hadn't been wiped clean, so the envelope had stuck to the underside of the basin. Who could have imagined that the lost letter had been stuck there?
      "Ah!" He exclaimed.
      His whole body was like the exclamation point following the word "ah", stunned rigid, and he stood like that for half an hour before he figured everything out.


Chapter Twenty-Five

      Now it's spring again.
      Spring is coming! Not only spring in natural world, but also the springtime of life! Look, the ice and snow are melting everywhere, and all things are reviving; gorgeous spring colors are already dazzling people's lives.
      When you bring a bright little flower to your nose, your hand holds new leaves glistening with tender green light and dripping with nectar; When you stand in the valleys and cast your eyes back to the greening mountains, you see the snowmelt rippling out from behind layers of ice, covering entire mountains with the noise of flowing water; When you stroll through the streets, you can look up at the new buildings from which the scaffolding has not yet been removed, standing tall in the spring sunshine; When you lean against the window at night, you can hear the beautiful melody of geese calling in the sky in concert with the music of the earth.... Who would keep wanting another taste of the bone-chilling cold of winter? Who would keep wanting to stare at scars that have already scabbed over?
      However, if there's been a disaster for which you haven't clarified the root causes, there's still an ambush waiting on the road ahead. Although it has passed, it could possibly come again. We need to work hard to secure a more peaceful and straightforward future, and not to repeat the pain of an old rut, but we also need to give it serious thought....
      For the future's sake, always keep the past firmly in mind.


      September 1979




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