Q from Christine: You mentioned some books have left "considerable impressions" on you, and that you feel " there are similarities among them". Can you please elaborate?
A: The End of the Affair and Oscar and Lucinda -- both books explore whether one can maintain a friendly relationship with one's faith.
In The End of the Affair, a writer falls in love with his friend's wife. However, after a while, the woman suddenly cools off and stops responding to his love. The writer cannot let go and hires a private detective to find out why. It is eventually found that during one of their secret meetings, an enemy attacked their country and the woman thought her lover was seriously injured in the bombing. Helpless and hopeless, she bargained with God, asking for her lover's survival, in exchange of her giving up this true love and returning to God's original arrangement, i.e. returning to her marriage to be a good but unhappy wife. Then the miracle happened -- the writer awoke from his coma and sustained only minor injuries. He did not know the woman had sacrificed herself for their love!
The woman's secrets are revealed after they reunion, but she is now seriously ill. On her death bed, she asks the cynical writer to stop being angry with God and the world, because only love can conquer all the obstacles. The woman is at the core of all her surroundings that suffer a lack of love -- thanks to her, her husband, her lover and the little boy in the story have all learned to feel the existence of God's blessings.
The little boy, belonging to the private detective, was once caught while following the woman. Like an angel, she pitied him and gave him a kiss on the ugly birthmark on his face. Then that birthmark slowly disappeared from his face.
Have you reached an agreement with the God in your heart? No one can be completely isolated from the others!
In Oscar and Lucinda, a priest meets a rich girl on a sea journey. They share the same hobby -- gambling! How can a priest enjoy gambling? Both of them try to escape a series of human bondages. The priest eventually conquers his fear of water and crosses the ocean to reach the New World; while the rich girl invests all her money on a glass factory, keen to launch her own world and cease relying on the traditional society that is dominated by men. Are they being crazy or innovative? To build a cathedral with glass? To ship it across the ocean?
They admire and cherish each other, for what they share is more than gambling. From self-exploration to a series of grand adventures, then to their final devotion to God -- are these not just one after another throw of the dice?
In A Quiet Life, a girl looks after her intellectually challenged brother and often worries about him. While she notices various unusual patterns in his outing, various sexual assaults against schoolgirls near their house have caught her attention. Because her brother came home with dirty clothing on the day one of the assaults happened, and because the time and route he took on that day coincided with those of the assault, she cannot help but wonder whether he is the one who did it?
Her brother is only a big kid who loves music. He walks pass a house and hears some beautiful music playing inside. Eager for more, he breaks into the house's garden and hides in the bush to listen to the music. His sister, who is following him, sees with her own eyes that he is behaving suspiciously!
But the real culprit is someone else. Still, the world of the adults is too complicated. How can the brother, who is beautiful and naive, be mistaken as a criminal?
In this case, ordinary daily lives are used to portray how "individuals" can act as a "group" to resist the society. If we are not careful, we can easily become trapped within the collective consciousness and get ourselves or the others hurt. How can individual awareness impact like a group, in order to resist the ugliness generated by unreasonable collective consciousness?
In Invisible Cities, previously unseen literary beauty is unleashed. A great number of cultural symbols help generating different depths for the book, making it highly readable.