‘I star as a translator in this film.’ The words slip out, breaking the dead silence in the room.
How do they slip out? Why do they slip out?
Surely those words may be the answer to a question. And who did answer?
It is very hard for me to accept that I am the one who answered. I tell myself that it might be someone else who replied. I tell myself that I overheard someone else say or that what I really spoke was something completely different from what I really heard or that I spoke nothing but I was deceived by mind and my ears into thinking that I spoke. I tell myself that I really did not hear anything, but I was deceived by my mind or ears into thinking that I heard. Does this mean that I suffer hallucination? No, no, no. I am sane. I am mentally healthy. I can see things clearly, as they are, not as appeared to be. However, now nothing is clear to me. Is it possible that I have no data in my mind of what I really said? I must confess that any way these words shocked me much, and I try to pretend that I remain calm or that nothing can make me panicky. Like someone who is being haunted by the soul of the person he murdered, I am being haunted by what I did not say.
I am not sure whether my eyes can hide my emotions because I know well that I am not good at acting. If they can’t, the others will come to spot the things in my mind. I have no idea what will happen to me. I sense that I look like the one who is trying to flee from something wrong he has done. I am sure I don’t like such type of guy. But who can say that I am not such type of guy? You?
Some questions are making such a loud buzzing noise in my mind that I can no longer swallow, and I urge myself that I must ask questions to stop the noise. Whom must I ask? Who will answer? Any way I have no chance to shun this situation. Before asking myself some questions, I think of the words: star, translator, film. I think I am familiar with the meanings of all these words.
According to the context, here, the word ‘star’ means to have as a principle role in a film or play. And what is ‘translator’? ‘Translator’ is a person who translates from one language into another language or someone who changes writing into a different language. In order to know what the word ‘translator’ means, you must be familiar with the meanings of these words: person, translate language, change, writing, different. If you have nothing in your mind of these words and of their meanings, you will not get what the word ‘translator’ really means. First you must know what the word ‘translate’ means. If you look up its definition in COED, you will find: to express the sense of (words or text) into another language. And now you must be familiar with what the word ‘express’ means. For its meaning, you can look up in COED, which defines: to convey (a thought or feeling) in words or by gestures and conduct. Now you must have knowledge about the phrase: convey thought, feeling, gesture, conduct. Then you must be familiar with the word ‘film’ and its meaning, too. ‘Film’ is a story or event recorded by a camera as a series of moving images and shown in a cinema or on television. Accordingly, you must have at least 30 words and their meanings in your memory so that you can seize what the sentence ‘I star as a translator in this film’ (I overheard or I really uttered) really means. There will be no one who can’t get the message the whole sentence conveys, I think.
I have no idea what her question was. In reality, it is my right to know her question and the intention of her question. Don’t you think that it is unjust both the question and its intention are hidden from me? Don’t you think that it is unjust to have to answer the question without knowing what it is and what its intention is? Or don’t you think that it is unfair not to be able to remember the question even if I had right to know it? Was I forced to do so? Is it true that I myself have answered? It is no use to deny this truth. And this implies that I am an actor, doesn’t it?
Have you ever done such fucking thing in your life? Here I happen to use the word ‘life’, which I always fail to see clearly. Even though I use the word ‘life’ occasionally, I don’t really know its meaning well. My knowledge about life is very superficial. To me, life is something like a dream with neither beginning nor ending. Once I tried to look up the word ‘life’ in a dictionary, and found that the definition is not what I hope to see. The definition is so superficial. And so sometimes I think about the terms ‘being’ and ‘existence’, too. If you are interested in philosophy, you will be familiar with the above-mentioned terms.
Any way it is sure that unintentionally I committed a mistake against my will. Am I the type of person who always commits this mistake or that mistake against my will? What can I do for it? Can I take it back? Can I say that I said nothing? From those words, I must be an actor, especially ‘star as’ implies that I am an actor. The problem is this. I don’t feel that I am an actor. I know well what an actor is, what a good actor is. Even among my friends, some are good actors. I am sure I am not interested in acting. I admire some actors and actress; I admire the art of acting. But this does not suggest that I am an actor or I want to be an actor. A dream to be an actor ever occurred to me once, I don’t think. That is why I must be insisting that I am not an actor.
I don’t even know how I am here. I fancy that I never seen the young lady sitting on the small stool-like sofa in front of me. Who is she? What is she? How and why is she with me here in this large room? And how and why am I here with her in this large room? Complete silence in the room. No sound, no voice but my words. The room seems to be waiting for something wrong I am going to commit. I find myself friendly with the atmosphere of the room, but I can’t find any clue in my memory about how many times I have ever frequented this room. My memory tells me that this is the first time I sit on this sofa, in this room, which is the largest one I have ever seen.
Sitting on the sofa, I eye everything around me in silence. I see four camerapersons – a young man and three young ladies- shooting our conversation. They look like robots. I don’t trace even a faint expression on their faces. Even when my eyes met with theirs, their eyes show no sign of seeing me. It seems that they were not educated to express their feelings and emotions or it seems that they were educated to suppress or conceal their feelings and emotions.
I think that this is a conversation between the young lady and me because I sense that we are talking something from different angles. This conversation seems to be very important not only to me but to them. Two men are being busy with the arrangement of light. I know well the importance of lighting in a shooting. But I don’t know why and how I know it. I have ever watched a lot of TV conversations. Some of them are very interesting, yet most of them are boring, not like the real ones, but like the conversation scenes in the films starred by poor actors and actresses. And is this, too, one scene of conversation in a film? I can’t say definitely ‘yes’ or ‘no’; I don’t feel certain that everything I see or hear, smell or touch, feel or imagine now is real. Is the conversation false? Or am I false?
All people in the room – including the lady sitting in front of me and the four camerapersons – are robot-like. All actions they perform – how they move from here to there, how they handle things, how they adjust their camera tripods, how they focus their cameras on me, on her, how they take position, how they communicate each other with gestures or words- are like those which robots do. I detect no feeling, no emotion, and no expression, in their eyes, in their actions, in their gestures, in their manners. Straight-faced they are; poker-faced they are. There must be a certain cause or causes behind this. I, with the hope that she will smile at me back, smile at a young lady who is helping the lady cameraperson position her camera tripod. My eyes and her eyes meet. Her eyes show no sign of seeing me, as if she saw nothing, as if she saw only vast space.
All they are working with great care. Are they being afraid that they will happen to make even a slight mistake? Are they working as commanded? I don’t want to blame them; I don’t want to find fault them. I have no idea under whose supervision or control they are working. I have no idea for which channel they are working. Perhaps they are freelanced filmmakers. None of them is my acquaintance, yet I don’t feel that none of them is stranger to me. The young lady in front of me, too, is not my acquaintance; possibly this is the first time I meet her and she interviews me. I, however, don’t have any feeling that she is a stranger. Though I have nothing about her in my memory, I feel that maybe she is my friend or my friend’s friend.
I don’t say that I have a very ‘excellent’ memory, yet I do say that I can remember some events even in my childhood in details and as exactly as I experienced. Majority of the events in my childhood are still vivid in my mind. If I say that I remember well what happened to me when I was four, you might think I am lying. Even my childhood friends, when I told them about our childhood, are amazed, and think that those real stories are my invented stories of our childhood because they all have no memory of what I tell them.
Now I am going to tell you a story of my early life as exactly as I underwent then. If what I kept in my memory remains undamaged, what I recall will be the same as what happened to me. If what I recall is the same as what happened to me, what I am going to tell you now will be true.
Now you can see a thirteen-year-old boy named Lynn Hteik in your imagination. He was not sharp. He was not hopeful. He was not upbeat. He was not strong and well-built. He was always bullied by big guys of his own age, who were well-built than he was. He always felt inferior among other students.
The boy had no knowledge about his birth parents. Maybe it was because his foster parents never told him about them or he dared not to ask them about his birth parents. He did not know even that he was a foster child before he started to go to middle school. No doubt that his foster parents loved him so much. He was amazed to know that he was a foster child because he never hoped that he was abandoned by his birth parents. He never conceived how a child would feel when he found himself as an abandoned child. Being abandoned by birth parents is worse than one can imagine.
From whom did he learn it? Possibly it was from a man or a woman who knew everything about his childhood that he came to learn it. Even a thought never occurred to him to ask his foster parents about how he was deserted by his birth parents and how he became their adopted child; he pretended that he knew nothing about it.
However, he could not help asking himself questions about fate or destiny or fatalism or determinism. There is no question that he, being a baby, could do nothing bad to his natural parents, but he was abandoned. Why? Because he was ugly? Because a certain fortuneteller predicted that he might bring ill luck? His birth parents seemed to sell him to his foster parents or his foster parents seemed to find him somewhere as an abandoned baby, and fostered him. Another possible story is that his biological parents died a few days or a few months or a few years after his birth, and so he was adopted by others. Whenever he watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, he thought that some parts of his life looked like those of Benjamin Button, yet he was not a curious bloke whose life is not as interesting as that of Benjamin Button. Sometimes he missed his birth parents even though he could not form their images in his mind. Sometimes he imagined that he became grown up, living with them. What might be the difference? If they were poor, he would be poor. If they lived a hand-to-mouth existence, he would live hand-to-mouth, too. He might not have chance to go to school. He would not get even a so-called university degree awarded by ‘state education’ of his country. Instead he would remain uneducated. He would be a laborer, a construction worker or a hawker or a gangster etc. Whenever he met such child workers in construction sites or in street tea shops, he thought that his life would be like theirs if he was not adopted.
His foster parents were very strict disciplinarians, and he was grown up under their strict guidance. The result was that he became a courteous man, a law-abiding citizen.
Though he knew this secret, he kept it as it was. He never felt that he was their adopted son. He never had seen even a slight sign on their faces that they fostered him. They always treated him as their birth child because to them he is a birth child. He loved them so much: he admired them so much. He was proud of being their son. Later from reading some books, he came to have knowledge about kammic forces, which govern and rein a person’s life. It is kammic forces which condition life. He came to learn about the cycle of rebirths just a little. What happens to him in this very life is related to the kamma or deed he had performed in his previous life and in this very life. In fact, even his existence is the result of the kammic forces of his previous life or lives. According to this theory of kamma, he must accept his present existence in a proper way. He must accept the fact that he is responsible partly for being abandoned. If he had the psychic power, he would have to look back the events in his previous life.
Some of his friends did not believe the theory of cycle of rebirths. He could not convince them because he had no perfect knowledge about this theory. ‘One day you all will be convinced.’ This was what he always told them whenever he had nothing to say any more in conversation with them. He realized later that he must try to read the writings about kammic forces more. Without perfect knowledge about kammic forces, no one can have considerably perfect view on the theory of cycle of rebirths.
In fact, it is hard to know what kammic force is. Kammic force is invisible, but very powerful. The end of kammic force is the end of the cycle of rebirths. He, with his little knowledge about kammic force, could comfort himself so much. And it was Thin Zar’s uncle Myo Thi who shared him a habit of reading and gave him a book, of which final chapter is devoted to kammic force. Myo Thi was a university student then. He was an avid reader, and had vast knowledge. At first, he was not ready to accept the theory because there, in his heart, was a thorn of bitterness. He even thought that it is a theory for one to try to escape reality. Soon after he realized that it is a theory for one to face the reality with right view, tolerance, courage and balanced state of mind. It took a long time for him to live with this theory. However, he was not sure whether he had fully accepted this theory because he found it difficult to show tolerance towards some hardships and bitter blow.
Myo Thi was arrested in the student revolution of the whole nation, and as the result he never came back home. No one knew where he was sent. No one knew how he was lost. No one knew whether he was dead or alive. If he was dead, no one knew how he died. He died of disease or he died of torture, no one knew. His family members hoped that he was still alive. So his family members and his friends still expected that he would show up at the time when no one hoped that he would, because he had a habit of making others surprised.
‘We can’t escape the kammic force. Kamma is what we ourselves perform and kammic force is the natural faculty in kamma. This force is the law of nature.’ These words of Myo Thi were imprinted on his mind forever.
When he was twenty-five, he got a degree in psychology. The poor state education of his country could not make him interested in the subject he took. He knew nothing about psychology. His little knowledge about psychology ‘he earned from university’, too, deserted him a few months later after he got his degree. He was lazy to read. He was lazy to talk about politics. He was lazy to talk about philosophy. He was lazy to think. When others were talking about psychology, he always remained silent, like a deaf and dumb idiot.
If I have a chance to look into a mirror, I will see my expression, and will be able to judge whether I feel puzzled or not.
Perhaps we are in the middle of the interview. Perhaps she is the interviewer and I am the interviewee. To my view this is not an interview because I have no memory of how many questions she’s asked me and how many answers I’ve given her. I can’t imagine why I was not aware of this just before now. It could be that I have been sitting, unconscious? Or it could be that I have been in a deep sleep. Something seemed to make me unaware of what was happening to me. But now it is time for me to be conscious of everything I undergo. I will be aware of every question she will ask. I will be conscious of every answer I will give. I will be aware of everything she will tell me. I will be conscious of everything I will tell her. What’s more, I will be aware of everything I will think of.
I give a swift look at the young lady, my pretty interviewer, whose name I don’t know, whose impeccable manner I admire. She does not look at me. She is looking at the vast space outside the room in a thoughtful manner. She is thinking of something deeply.
‘Well, I have some more questions,’ she says suddenly, coming out of her deep thoughts, taking one abrupt look at me. ‘I hope you’ll have some more time to answer my questions.’ Her tone of voice uncovers her self-confidence.
I remain silent because I don’t know what to tell her. I am not sure whether I have time to answer her questions as freely as I want. She seems to be waiting for my reply: yes or no. In reality my reply is not so important. What is important is that I should have right to ask her some questions.
‘Am I an actor?’ I am about to ask her the question. But I fail because something I don’t expect occurs to me and prevent me from asking. The most important question is, ‘Who am I?’
‘You’ve studied how a translator leads his life, haven’t you?’
Without waiting for my reply, she says. Her question wakes me up, shaking my sleepy condition of mind.
My answer is, ‘Of course, I’ve.’
I don’t believe my ears. Did I really say like that? I know well that what a translator is and how a translator leads his life. Maybe it is because some of my friends are translators. I don’t think that I studied how a translator leads his life. But my answer confirms that I studied how a translator lives. Although I don’t remember their names, I am sure that some of my friends are translators. Some translate Burmese writings into English, and some translate English writings into Burmese. And I am sure that I am not a translator.
‘Now for a short time let’s change our topic,’ she announces. ‘Some fans of yours say that you’re an avid reader.’
‘Of course, I am,’ I say. ‘How do they know it?’
‘On the television, they watched the other interview carried at your house, and they spot your book shelves full of several books.’
‘The other interview’ echoes in my mind. It means that this is neither the first nor the only conversation I have had and that one of those conversation was carried at my house. Oddly I have no idea that I have made some conversations.
I have no idea what to say. How do they know that it was at my house the interview was carried? I have big book shelves full of books in my home library, so it may be true that they saw book shelves at my house. However, maybe it is not on the television that they saw them, but in my library at my house. Perhaps they paid a visit to my home and entered my library. Why did they visit to my home? Why did they enter my library? How did they enter my home library? Without my knowledge or permission, no one can enter my library. There must be a certain reason for them to pay a visit to my house. There must be a certain reason for them to enter my home library. Somehow, they seemed to enter my home library. But I am sure that I never let anyone enter my home library. At least I should remember they paid a visit to my home even if I don’t recall who they are and when they paid a visit. Now I find myself telling you about my house, and you may assume that I have a house in which a home library is located. In fact I can’t even visualize either my house or my home library. Is it a large house or a small house? Is it mansion or a bungalow? I am not sure. Is it a small home library or a huge home library? I am not certain.
‘They’re right. I am an avid reader,’ I reply hesitantly. ‘I read a lot. I love books. I love knowledge and wisdom.’ I happen to stress the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ unintentionally.
‘May I know what kind of books you read?’
I shrug my right shoulder, and say, ‘I have said that I love knowledge and wisdom,’ I cast a quick glance at her to see how she responds to what I said. No expression on her face. I add, ‘But this does not mean that I am a philosopher. I am not interested in thinking.’
‘I’d like to know what kind of books you read.’
She is asking me questions like an officer is interviewing an applicant for a job. I hate bossy type. She is bossy. But I don’t hate her.
‘I am thinking of the answer. I feel that it is a question which is hard to answer in brief. I am afraid that my answer will not be able to cover the issue.’
‘Do you mean that you can’t answer my question now?’
‘Ok. No prob. At present, I’d like to know which book you are reading now. I hope this is a simple question for you to answer.’
I nod and say, ‘Of course, it is.’
There is a silence between us. I am trying to think about the book I am reading now. Is it a novel or something? Why is it hard for me to find out what book I am reading? Why do I forget the book I am reading now?
A title Pala Island comes into my mind first. I don’t know what it is. A poem? A short story? A novel? A film? A memoir? Then a name Aldus Huxley appears in my mind. What is he? After that I find a man named Mr. Will Fabany lying in the dead leaves, like a corpse. He hears the inhuman voice calling: attention, attention, attention. I see he turn his head. He tries to raise himself. He hears birds chanting: ‘Here and now, boys.’ He sees a girl and a boy.
Are these the things left in my memory after I have read a novel? Which novel? Pala Island? Is it the novel I am reading now? I don’t think so. I think that I read it about five or six years ago. Some data in my memory are telling me that I took even some notes while reading it. But I can’t recall. Where is the book in which I jotted down some notes on Pala Island? The note book is the evidence for the fact that I really read Pala Island. I never have seen the note book. In my memory the note book exists: outside the note book does not really exist. What a curious thing!
It might be a dream. All I remember are the things I dreamed, aren’t they?
Sometime in the past, I used to ask myself if I had ever been to such Islands because I found myself on the island in dreams. In a dream I had six or seven years ago, I was making a stone sculpture at the bottom of the huge rock mountain. The rock mountain was so lofty that I can’t see its top. Its top appears to penetrate the clouds in the sky. I imagined what would be there on the other side of the mountain. I wanted to climb the mountain to see the things on its top. I was not sure whether I managed to climb the top of the lofty mountain or I spent time, looking up at it. If the data in my memory are right, it is certain that seven or eight years ago I wrote a novella about a scholar who tried to flee from the island of barbarians. I remember the whole plot of the novella in detail. The scholar did not know what kind of scholar he was. He did not remember how he was there on the island. When he found, gems, he knew they are gems. He knew well that he did not belong to the barbarians on the island. If time and everything permit, I will tell you this story.
And so I doubt that everything I experience now is real. I sense that I am having a dream which is identical to the real. Strangely, nothing I experience now fazes me at all. I feel ease. I feel comfortable. I feel free.
‘Sometimes my dreams are like the real events I experience.’ I tell our young lady, who is absorbed in something. She seems to be thinking about something serious. Maybe she is preparing other difficult questions to ask me. She does not seem to hear my words. Or maybe she pretends not to hear my words. And I say the same words aloud. She lifts her head suddenly and looks at me. No sign on her face. Surely she heard nothing. Impossible. I said clearly and loudly. If I really said, certainly she would hear. Didn’t I say anything? If so, why did I think that I said?
I shake my head. And I try to drive out it. ‘I said nothing. I thought nothing.’ I say in my mind.
With a faint smile on my face, I say, ‘Pala Island does not really exist. It is an imaginary island. The whole story is utopia.’ I know this is not what I really intended to say. But I can’t do anything: I’ve said.
She gives me a confused look, which warns me that what I said is not absolutely related to her question, and reminds me that I fail to answer her question. I forget to answer question. Damn! What a careless idiot! Anyway I must thank myself not to tell her that I am Will Fabany, ‘a know-nothing young student’ of Pala Island, who was taught how to live at the last moments of life, how to die. I see an old woman on her deathbed and a lady, who is telling her to do everything lightly. I don’t know with what meaning she is using the word ‘lightly’, yet I sense the real meaning of ‘lightly’. I feel slight lightness in my heart. Life is light, isn’t it? While examining what they two doing, I fancy that I come to experience the taste of life and death. And I hear a woman saying: ‘Remember what you used to tell me when I was a little girl. Lightly, child, lightly. You’ve got to learn to do everything lightly. Think lightly, act lightly, feel lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.’ Who is she? It might be that Susila is her name. It might be that she is the daughter-in-law the old woman on her deathbed. I feel her light tone of voice.
As mentioned above, I admire her tone of voice, which is clear and pleasant to hear, even though she is a bossy type.
‘I think you have not answered my question,’ she says.
I nod. ‘Terribly sorry,’ I reply in a hurry. ‘I think I am reading Out of Place.’
‘No, a memoir.’
‘Edward W. Said’s.’
From what I see and hear, from the situation in which I am, I must accept that she is interviewer and I am interviewee. I, however, am not sure how many interviews I had already given. I don’t think that I am not such a celebrated person to give an interview. However, it is undeniable that I am giving an interview here and now. From this, it can be concluded that I am a celebrated person.
I don’t understand the words I myself have said. I swear that I am not pretending to be an actor. I swear that I am not giving interview with a will. I myself can’t believe that the fact that I am being interviewed is real. Anyway it is sure that I am familiar with the word ‘interview’ and its denotation. This proves that I have learnt the word somewhere. Moreover, I have knowledge that the word ‘interview’ was used as the title for a film about two American reporters and North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
‘Did I say that I star as a translator in this film?’ This is what I want to ask the young female interviewer, who is thinking of the next questions to ask me.
Now she says nothing. She is silent as if she had nothing to say. From the signs in her eyes, I am aware that she keeps something secret: I don’t know exactly what it is.
My mind, without my notice, goes back to the opening sentence, and the questions occur to me one after another. Why don’t I remember the question she asked me? Am I being prevented from remembering the important facts for my life? Is everything I remember within limit? If I am allowed to remember A, I remember A. If I am not allowed to remember B, I do not remember B. that’s all. I have no chance to choose. I have no right to choose. I have no power to choose. Why don’t I have chance? Why don’t I have right? Why don’t I have power? Why can I do nothing? Doesn’t my memory belong to me?
I am aware that I feel upset. I should not let this happen. I shake my head, and try to calm myself. I seem to have the practice of calming myself down. My mind gradually becomes settled. And I try to give up finding out the question: I sense that it might be a trap for me. ‘What is your role in this film?’ might be the question of the sentence ‘I star as a translator.’ It might be that there are the other possible questions. Well. I don’t try to know the question before this one: I am tired of thinking.
In the room some people are being busy with their jobs or they are pretending to be being busy. I try to communicate with them with gesture. I am sure they see me. But they don’t respond to my gesture.
I don’t want to know the beginning of this conversation, but I do want to know what and who I am. Are the events I recall connected to my real life? Is everything I remember false? Do I forget the real facts related to my real life? Do I take false events as real events? Even though I try to stop asking myself questions, questions arise against my will.
‘Do you know who and what I am?’ I ask the young woman. She shows no expression of hearing what I tell her. From this, I will not judge that my voice is so low that she cannot hear: I sense that she hears what I tell her. I can’t give a reasonable explanation to this. All I can say is that I feel that she is only pretending not to hear my question. It is not from her expression I detected her pretention, but from my innate ability. The expression on her face confirms that she did not hear what I told her. But from my innate ability, surely she heard what I told her.
My memory does not work well enough to remember the events of the nearest past- one or two minutes ago. I, however, know the word ‘translator’ and its meaning. What’s more, I even know the other words which collocate with this word: ‘poetry translator’, ‘short story translator’, ‘essay translator’, ‘fiction translator’, ‘novel translator’ etc. Even if I am an actor who stars as a translator, I am not sure what kind of translator I am in this film. It is strange that I feel that I have ever read a novel which opens with an interview and of which plot I fail to remember. Am I the one who wrote it? Impossible!
I don’t want to ask any question, but things drive me into questioning this or that, these or those. Must I say yes to the fact that what is happening to me now is real? Must I try to find out reality? To say yes is easy: to find out reality is hard. There are so many barriers. There are so many hidden facts. There are so many obstacles. If what is happening to me is not real, what is real? If what is happening to me is real, how about the stories of my life I kept in my memory? Are they not real? Why do I doubt everything I experience in this very room?
Something tells me that I have a chance to come out of this dilemma. Bravo!
Whether everything I go through is real or not, whether I am an actor or not, whether I star as a translator in a film or not, surely I know what an actor is, I know what a leading character is, I know what a translator is, I know I am not an actor, and I know I am not a translator. But in my memory, I have some titles of some novels written in English or translated into English: The Man in the Dark Room, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Karnaf Cafe, etc. It might be that all these novels seem to be those which I have read, not those which I have translated into Burmese.
According to vague recollection, before I started acting as a translator in the film, I must spend some months with some famous translators so that I would be familiar with the real character of a translator. I don’t remember the names of the translators with whom I spent time. I am not sure what I learnt from them. However, I am familiar with the life of a translator. Is this the proof that I am an actor who, for his role in a new film, tried to learn how a translator leads his life?
I remember a Burmese actress who studied some mentally ill women in the asylum for her character in a film.
As an actor or as a novelist or as a general reader, I have read some biographies and autobiographies of famous actors and actresses. As an actor or as a novelist or as a general reader, I have watched some bio-cinemas of famous actor and actresses. I remember those biographies and autobiographies I have read. I remember those bio-cinemas I have watched. But I don’t remember the films in which I starred. If I am really an actor, I should remember the films in which I starred.
It seems that the only dream of mine is to be a novelist. I seemed to study the art of fiction writing. I seemed to read books on the art of writing. I can tell you about the books of fiction writing. I can tell you about the books of the art of writing. But I am not sure whether they are the books I’ve read or not. They might be the books I read or the books about which my friend novelists told me.
I am not sure whether I am actor or not, but I am sure that I am a big fan of film. And I remember that I have read some books on film though I have no aim to be a director or a scripter writer or an actor. Surrealist Cinema is one of the books on films I have already read. Now I am writing a novel about a movie star, who died about six years ago. No one was with him when he died. He loved living alone. He loved solitude. Most of the films in which he starred were surrealist. His life also was surrealist. In an interview he said, ‘My life is dream-like. Everything which happened to me is what I never hoped, expected or predicted. I never dreamed to be an actor, but I became a famous actor. It seems that a certain agent is running my life, I think. But I am not sure what it is. What I mean is that my life runs not as directed or planned by me, but as directed or planned by ‘something powerful’ which I can’t identify. You can call it as you like.’
I have not decided whether I should put this in my book about him because it is related to determinism or fatalism. But I have a view that there is something beyond our knowledge, beyond our control, beyond our power. What we can do is within limit, within what we are allowed to do. Whenever I think of our limited power or powerlessness, I remember Jesus’ words: ‘The hour has come, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.’ Am I passive? This is the question haunting me all the time.
Since ten years ago I have already watched Red Balloon, a 13-minute thriller film, directed by Alexis Wajsbrot and Damien Mace. I like it so much. The other short film I like is My Friend’s Home directed by Kim Hak-min, Kin Sol, and Ahn Jeong-hyun. But I have many things to say about Children of Heaven. It also is a short film directed by the director Majid Majidi. I feel that a scene in the footrace damages the main concept of the film and its title Children of Heaven. Heaven, as you know, is a realm where good people can go. Here in the footrace, a boy tried Ali, the main character of the film, fall down. This shows that the boy has no good spirit. Sometimes I tell myself that the title the film is quite ironic.
I have already watched some movies, such as Beautiful Mind, Seven Samurais, Life is Beautiful, Pretty Baby, Jacob the Liar, La Argue, Black Swam, Returning Home, The Angriest Man etc. I, having a good memory, can remember the plot of every film I watched. Maybe this is what I inherited from my parents. My father could remember anything he had read once. My mother could retell nearly everything she went through in her life. She had many stories she earned from her life. She was a good story-teller. I promise that in later parts I will tell you my mother stories if I will not forget to tell you or if I will not break my promise.
The other precious thing I inherited from my mother is the ability to show tolerance towards the things, good or bad, I undergo. My parents were poor, so I had no chance to have formal education. As far as I can recall, I felt sorry and inferior in my childhood and boyhood. Later, my mother’s teachings strengthened and encouraged me.
When I started to write the novel about an actor, my girl friend advised me that should not write such novel because I have no knowledge about an actor or an actress. Here we should consider ‘my girl friend’. From this, it can be concluded that I have a girl friend. Who is she? What is she? Is she tall or short? Is she pretty or ugly? Is she intelligent or stupid? I can’t imagine anything. Everything is vague. It might be that I have a girl friend, but I have no memory of her. As far as I can recall, she is not fat, she is not short, she is not stupid, and she is not arrogant. Then I suspect what I can recall about her. I see her as a perfect girl. Is she a perfect girl?
Ok, let her be like that.
She is right. But her words cannot stop my ideas and my eagerness to write it. Now I have already written nearly 100 pages. I don’t know when I must end the novel. I am not sure whether even the opening part of my novel is like the opening part of the real novel. I open my novel with the sentence: The window opened. In my mind eyes, I saw a window open, and I wrote down the sentence: The window opened. That is all.
Later the opening sentence may change. But if it changes, the following sentences also may change, because the following sentences’ contexts are related to it.
I have written some short stories, but this is the first novel, and I am not sure whether it will be published or not, whether I will be able to finish it or not. Probably I will stop writing it before it comes to an end. Then my unfinished novel will be lost secretly, and the facts in it also will be lost secretly. No one will have no knowledge that it really existed. No one will have knowledge about the facts in the novel.
To publish my novel, I must know a publisher; I must know a literary agent or the man like that. I don’t know any publisher. I don’t know any literary agent or agent-like man. My girl friend (this is the second time I use ‘my girl friend’) told me that I should try to show my work to a literary agent. In deed in my country there is no such agent but agent-like persons.
My girl friend (this is the third time I use ‘my girl friend’) is not only a good literary consultant but a harsh literary critic to me. Whatever I write, she is the first reader, the first editor, the first proofreader, the first critic. I always consult her. She always criticizes my writings. She always corrects my writings. She is a good reader. She is good at grammar. She always points out grammar errors in my writings. She never wrote a short story or essay or a poem. She is very lazy to write. She never wrote a letter to me while she was in remote region as a school teacher. She, however, is patient in reading. She reads everything closely.
‘You’re a good writer’ is what she always tells me ironically. I know well what it really means. But I like it much. And so I always reply, ‘Thank you, Madam.’
There is a long silence in the room. I am silent as if I had nothing to say. In reality, I have so many things to say. My head is crammed with questions. I am astonished at my silence.
‘I star as a translator in this film.’ I say in my mind, and bitterly resent. I can’t imagine why I fail to keep in mind everything which happened to me a few moments before I answered that I star as translator in this film. Are all facts in my memory removed? Is it not logical that I don’t know even the question she asked me? I have a belief that I have an excellent memory. The events even in my childhood are still in my memory. Once I met with my childhood friends at a gathering and I retold them about what happened to us in our childhood, I saw some hints of on their faces. Am I the one whose memory is destroyed? Am I the one whose memory is excellent? Or am I the one who mistakes himself for someone else whose memory is excellent?
I can’t drive the vivid facts of the past out of my mind. No matter it is real or not, the conversation with my childhood friends really still exists in my memory.
‘Did it really happen to us at the time?’ Khaing Zaw asked after a long silence. His wide-opened eyes and his tone of voice signified that he could not believe in what I told him. But he dared not to say that what I told him was not true because he is one of my childhood friends who share the belief that my memory is very good. I have no habit of writing a diary: I am very lazy to write such thing. Whenever I tell something about my childhood or boyhood, I tell it from my memory, not from what I have written down in a diary. I never suspect what my memory tells me.
I have complete confidence in my memory. Now must I shatter my confidence myself? Does my memory not work well now? Even if my memory does not work well, I am not ready to accept it as a fact, as a reality. Even if my memory fails to work properly, it remains good in my view.
I give a long sigh and stretch my body. I am convinced that I must be prepared for everything which may happen to me not as I expect, but as it will happen. Even this conversation is not what I have imagined. I have no idea of why I am having a fucking dull and boring conversation. I have no idea of why I am sitting here to be interviewed as an actor. Damn! I can’t set myself free from this situation, can I?
The young lady seems to be very patient. I am not sure how many times I have met her. But I feel that I am very familiar with her. Maybe we have met several times before. I think that I am familiar with her tone of voice well. It may be impolite if I ask her whether we have met before. Maybe she gets angry. I fear that she will be annoyed at my question. That is why I am keeping myself silent.
I said that all people in the room are robot-like. Now I must correct my words. They are not robot-like. Maybe they are the victims of a certain illegal project. They are doing their duties as exactly as commanded. She also may be the one who has to do her duty as exactly as ordered. Ok, then, ordered by whom? I remember someone told me that we were born as ordered or as planned. There is no order-maker; there is no plan-maker. There is no one who can order what I must do. There is no one who draws plans for my life. There is no one who governs my life. I seemed to tell someone like that once before.
What if I will tell all these things to my interviewer?
‘Ok, let’s restart our conversation,’ the young woman reminds me in a polite intonation and manner.
I don’t know what she will ask. So I am not sure whether I can answer her questions.
I ask the young lady, ‘Have we ever met before?’
She answers nothing. Instead, she gives a strange look to me. Perhaps it means that she can’t believe in what she hears and that it is the question she does not hope. If so, what is the question she hopes?
I suspect that the question I wanted to ask is one thing and the question I really asked is the other. I suspect that it is only in my mind that I asked the question and I did not really ask any question to her out loud.
I notice her start typing.
IT IS A FRUITFUL CONVERSATION. She pauses, and frowns. Then she continues.
From her way of moving fingers on the laptop keyboard, I can say that she is very good at typing.
IT SEEMS THAT HE IS NOT READY FOR EVERYTHING. IT SEEMS THAT IT IS HARD FOR HIM TO BELIEVE THAT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO HIM IS REAL. I SEE SOMETHING STRANGE IN HIS EYES.
She is typing and typing. From what she has typed, I learn how she sees our conversation and me. Some facts do not agree with what we really talked, but I don’t criticize, not because I have no right, but because I don’t want to.
Suddenly, he pauses typing, and give me a blank expressionless look. I smile at her, but she does not return my smile.
Now she is checking what she has typed on the laptop screen.
To be continued……..
Ke` Su Thar