He has just discovered the location of a new British artillery park and wishes to convey that knowledge to Berlin before he is captured. He at last hits upon a plan to achieve this. Doctor Tsun explains that his spying has never been for the sake of the Kaiser 's Germany, which he considers "a barbarous country. Doctor Tsun is, therefore, determined to be more intelligent than any White spy and to obtain the information Nicolai needs to save the lives of German soldiers.
Taking his few possessions, Doctor Tsun boards a train to the village of Ashgrove. Narrowly avoiding the pursuing Captain Madden at the railway station, he goes to the house of Doctor Stephen Albert, an eminent Sinologist. Doctor Albert's solution is that they are the same, and the novel is the labyrinth.
In most fictions, a character chooses one alternative at each decision point and eliminates all of the others. Albert further explains that the constantly-diverging paths sometimes converge again but as the result of a different chain of causes.
For example, Doctor Albert says that in one possible timeline, Doctor Tsun has come to his house as an enemy but in another, he comes as a friend. Though trembling with gratitude at Doctor Albert's revelation and at his ancestor's genius, Doctor Tsun glances up the path to see Captain Madden rushing towards the door. It was Captain Richard Madden.
Shattered, trembling, I shrank into the far corner of the seat, away from the dreaded window. From this broken state I passed into an almost abject felicity.
I told myself that the duel had already begun and that I had won the first encounter by frustrating, even if for forty minutes, even if by a stroke of fate, the attack of my adversary. I argued that this slightest of victories foreshadowed a total victory. I argued no less fallaciously that my cowardly felicity proved that I was a man capable of carrying out the adventure successfully.
From this weakness I took strength that did not abandon me. I foresee that man will resign himself each day to more atrocious undertakings; soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands; I give them this counsel: The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past. The train ran gently along, amidst ash trees.
It stopped, almost in the middle of the fields. No one announced the name of the station. I got off. A lamp enlightened the platform but the faces of the boys were in shadow. One questioned me, "Are you going to Dr. Stephen Albert's house? It went downhill, slowly. For an instant, I thought that Richard Madden in some way had penetrated my desperate plan. Very quickly, I understood that that was impossible. The instructions to turn always to the left reminded me that such was the common procedure for discovering the central point of certain labyrinths.
I have some understanding of labyrinths: not for nothing am I the great grandson of that Ts'ui Pen who was governor of Yunnan and who renounced worldly power in order to write a novel that might be even more populous than the Hung Lu Meng and to construct a labyrinth in which all men would become lost. Beneath English trees I meditated on that lost maze: I imagined it inviolate and perfect at the secret crest of a mountain; I imagined it erased by rice fields or beneath the water; I imagined it infinite, no longer composed of octagonal kiosks and returning paths, but of rivers and provinces and kingdoms.
I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.
Absorbed in these illusory images, I forgot my destiny of one pursued. I felt myself to be, for an unknown period of time, an abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day worked on me, as well as the slope of the road which eliminated any possibility of weariness.
The afternoon was intimate, infinite. The road descended and forked among the now confused meadows. A high-pitched, almost syllabic music approached and receded in the shifting of the wind, dimmed by leaves and distance. I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets.
Thus I arrived before a tall, rusty gate. Between the iron bars I made out a poplar grove and a pavilion. I understood suddenly two things, the first trivial, the second almost unbelievable: the music came from the pavilion, and the music was Chinese. For precisely that reason I had openly accepted it without paying it any heed.
I do not remember whether there was a bell or whether I knocked with my hand. The sparkling of the music continued. From the rear of the house within a lantern approached: a lantern that the trees sometimes striped and sometimes eclipsed, a paper lantern that had the form of a drum and the color of the moon. A tall man bore it. I didn't see his face for the light blinded me. He opened the door and said slowly, in my own language: "I see that the pious Hsi P'eng persists in correcting my solitude.
You no doubt wish to see the garden? Your illustrious ancestor? Come in. We came to a library of Eastern and Western books.
I recognized bound in yellow silk several volumes of the Lost Encyclopedia, edited by the Third Emperor of the Luminous Dynasty but never printed.
The record on the phonograph revolved next to a bronze phoenix. I also recall a famille rose vase and another, many centuries older, of that shade of blue which our craftsmen copied from the potters of Persia. Stephen Albert observed me with a smile. What two opposing philosophies are presented in the story and embodied in such statements?
Which one does Borges promote? Which one does he criticize? How do the boys know that Yu Tsun is going to Stephen Albert's house? What sense does that create regarding Yu Tsun's journey? Is it predetermined in some sense? How exactly? In what sense? Why do they boys tell him "take this road to the left and at every crossroads turn again to your left? What does it mean to always choose left? How is this related to the idea that the traditional solution to finding the center of certain labyrinths involves making continued left turns?
How are such choices and methods connected to the nature and direction of human history? How are they related to the idea of a fixed fate? What does Yu Tsun see and hear as he approaches Albert's house? Why does he admire him so much? What is Albert's profession? What does that suggest about him? Is it significant that Albert takes an interest in and has a deep love for Chinese culture? How does he differ from men like Yu Tsun and Madden?
Are Yu Tsun and Madden also knowledgeable of other cultures? To what purpose or effect do they put that knowledge? How does that differ from what Albert or Goethe do with their knowledge of the cultural other? What happens to Yu Tsun as he approaches Albert's house and ponders the significance of his grandfather's labyrinth? His sense of time?
What does he mean by acknowledging that "absorbed in these illusory images, I forgot my destiny of one pursued"? How are his perceptions altered by those visions? What do they allow him to overcome? What does Yu Tsun realize at Albert's house and how does it affect his position in, and his view of, the labyrinth of life? What does Yu Tsun mean when he says,"I sensed that the Chief somehow feared people of my race -- for the innumerable ancestors who merge within me"?
How about, "I felt about me and within my dark body an invisible, intangible swarming"? And "once again I felt the swarming sensation of which I have spoken. It seemed to me that the humid garden that surrounded the house was infinitely saturated with invisible persons"? Who are those persons? What invisible presences are felt here?
What do they signify? How do they explain the mysterious coincidences featured in the story? To call van Wissem 's music minimalism would be inaccurate, but it holds many of the same attractions as Brian Eno 's early ambient work.
Overall, this is a lovely and rewarding album that challenges the ear without repelling it. Highly recommended.
Electronic Folk International. Jazz Latin New Age.
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