Detective stories

1735/4th March 2021

Perhaps listening to Russian choral music is not what I need to be doing at the moment, but it is so very lovely. It pierces the heart.

The piece I am listening to is Tchaikovsky’s Hymn of the Cherubim sung by the USSR Min. of Culture Choir.

There is something about the timbre of Russian voices. Maybe they sing from deep down, but not quite throat singing.

A very dear friend of mine lost a child on this day, many, many years ago, so it seems appropriate to be a little thoughtful.

Having never had children, I can only try to imagine the pain of losing one. I witnessed the affect it has always had on my friend who, to this day is brought to tears by his loss. Simply, I cannot imagine it.

What I was going to write about is the book/s I am currently reading.

Having read everything available from Eliot Pattison and my other favourites, I hunted for something different, but not too different.

Somewhere, I had seen a reference to a series of books about a detective in Shanghai. Qiu Xiaolong, the author, was born in Shanghai and his character Chief Inspector Chen is obviously partly based on the author’s life, although I don’t believe he was ever a policeman.

At the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to have the patience to the finish the first book, but I decided I should persist. My animosity against the Chinese Government ought not to influence me.

What was bothering me, largely, was the dialogue. It seemed a bit like reading old English. People in “our” world just don’t talk to one another that way. But for the author to change the dialogue would have made it false, so I changed my mindset.

Next problem was the interminable reference to “Comrade” this and “Comrade” that and the constant mention of “cadres”. I don’t like the Chinese system, but it exists and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

So each time I come to a “Comrade” reference, I just skip over it and read on. It’s a bit like annoying speed bumps. You can’t quite ignore them. But on I went.

That first story was compelling enough to keep me going to the second book.

The author is a poet, with a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Washington University, so there are numerous excerpts from Chinese and American poets . They don’t overwhelm the story and they often make me to stop to consider, which isn’t a bad thing.

Into the second book now, I am reading about the dreaded “triads”, about human trafficking. And about what commercialism has done to China. I confess it is something I never thought about before.

At one time, to escape from China was a risky business. If you were caught, you were very severely punished and few took the risk.

Later on, it seems there was barely a knuckle wrap. Also, those who made it to the USA were admitted and encouraged to seek political asylum. This dates to 2002. I can’t speak for what happens now.

Chinese who made it to the USA would live very frugally, which was their accustomed way, and they would send most of their income home to China where the money was worth a comparative fortune.

Back in China, those who had a relative “overseas” suddenly could build great mansions, while those who had no-one abroad continued to live in their ancient hovels. It created a great division in status.

This last part is what I had never thought about or cared about.

For a long time now, I’ll admit it, I’ve been angry with the Chinese because of their invasion of Tibet. But that is a political issue.

The average Chinese, I am quite sure, had no interest in moving thousands of miles from home to a place high in the bleak Himalayas.

So I must remember to be more detached, less judgemental.

Reading these books gives one a good look at how the average Chinese lives and what they are subjected to by their government. I would detest it. I would not be able to keep track of the way the wind blows and should find myself very quickly in ill-favour.

It seems a schizophrenic society.

Then I had to stop and think: “And aren’t we? Schizophrenic?”

Once I was over the enthusiasm of my college days, when I dreamed of rescuing the planet, I developed a fairly dim view of the human species and as I’ve aged, it has not improved.

One thing has not changed, though. I always thought people, wherever they were from, were basically the same. Our needs are the same. The rest is based on where we are born and what we are exposed to.

Why do we need to fight and squabble? Because we are afraid.

We are afraid that someone else will come and take what we think is ours. And why is that?

Because we are too many.

I always come back to the same single conclusion. I do know it’s not the only one.


To leave you with something cheerful, here is a story from Reuters that I saw yesterday.

My heroes!

2 thoughts on “Detective stories

  1. I really enjoyed this Carolyn. I always try to remember that what we read and see does not apply to the majority. It is always a minority that is being described, or shown. Normally there are preconceived ideas behind what is being reported and, quite often, bias. History is no better because it is normally written from one viewpoint only. Winners of war (not that there can be such a beast) will always paint the loser as barbaric and totally to blame. I agree about Russian singers, and bravo for the Thai navy!

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