My Love-and-Hate Dialogue with Typhoons – Why I wrote "Beware of a Typhoon!"
朱山坡 鲁院写作研究生 译者：黄少政（独立翻译学者）
I grew up in a small place at the further most southern tip of South China, between Guangdong and Guangxi(within the administrative jurisdiction of Guangxi) ,plagued by storms perennially. I was particularly infatuated with all the tropical cyclones when young, especially typhoons which usually form from the southeast and move northwest wise. For a kid, this natural force spring up out of nowhere and disappears for no reason. I recalled typhoon warnings would be routinely issued from the village radio loudspeaker which instantly ignited my curiosity and put me into a festival mood waiting for a family guest from afar. However, unlike the way the home guest was treated and showered with generosity, villagers and my parents were sent into panic by hiding all provisions and livestock, evacuating the people to avoid being devastated by the subsequent flooding. The typhoons sometimes stalked halfway and then suddenly turned back, or changed course to pass by us, a moment which really let me down. I surmised villagers must have incurred the displeasure of typhoons and even cursed adults for resisting typhoons. Typhoons are the divinities of nature, omniscient and omnipotent. I reasoned my village was a pariah since even typhoons refused to visit us.
My hometown was a hopeless economic back water, not even close to a tiny stamp, perhaps a replica of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, “and in a condition of stasis, unaware of changed time”. The failure of the warned typhoon to appear only exacerbated the bitterness of my inferiority. We did not even meet with a few strange faces all year round .Were we totally left out of the larger scheme of things? I wondered. Lack of any exit here, I had no means of communicating with the world beyond and delivering a ISO we are stranded and please help us out. A typhoon in this way was the last ray of hope in my life . Come what may, typhoons were always a blessing in disguise , in the broad daylight ,in the middle of the night, any time was a good time for me. I was full of sadist joy and fear. Regardless of what grown ups might think, I was very stubborn in my adolescent reasoning that the omniscience of typhoons, over the mountains and across the rough sea might rip a hole in the extreme physical isolation of my Yoknapatawpha to let me peep through to see the world and hear the thundering sea. A fanciful mind reader of typhoons, I was convinced the typhoon came for me and brought me some mysterious messages that the world did not forget me but actually waited for me to grow up and took me away.
Twice or thrice a year, typhoons did visit or hit us. I hid myself in a rickety shanty gasping at the typhoon through the gritty windows and struck up an imaginary conversation with them. While thunders exploded and storms pelted down, I nevertheless, confided in them about my little secrets, for example, I was a fan of Teresa Teng, a Taiwan popular singer, and of huge ships sailing over the solemn mains, and of course, of the sea rough and measureless down to the ends of the world. I also lodged a complaint about the bad things the village tyrant had done this year and pleaded him to be snatched away and eaten by the fish in the sea. It was the besotted confession of a farmer’s kid to be so intimate with typhoons and I even fancied there was a very good rapprochement and tacit understanding between us.
…However, the real typhoon is not a fairy-tale for fun. They were some of the most destructive forces on earth, the worst scenario one could expect in his life. Typhoons are the beginning of sorrows as New Testament writers describe “ shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” In their wake, dry weeds and dead wood were first to be crushed , any living thing upright standing collapsed and there was human wailing and animal crying everywhere. Villagers ,like bow-shy birds, panic-stricken, bustled about salvaging crops in the fields or stratifying their pigsties, stables or cowsheds. This was only a routine topical storm. When real typhoons came onto the scene, not a single roof top was left and the bare structure would go down amidst floods, landslides, while river beds changed course giving way to an open sea engulfing all the rice paddies, the plains, bridges and farm houses, roads. What was once the cozy community ,however impoverished, all of a sudden became a hellish, doomsday place beyond recognition.
My family bore the brunt of them several times due to the proximity to the typhoon path .Our house went down time and again. The banana trees and fruit trees around were gone at the time of maturity, the last straw on the backs of debt ridden parents. We had to start over again .I was forced to skip school because I could not afford my tuition fees. However, I did not hate typhoons. I just hoped that they did not frequent our village at a wrong timing because I needed time to figure out what was what and that they might come when the harvesting season was over and we were ready for their visitation. One last wish: do save our humble dwelling or stop rolling away our rooftop.
This much is still vivid and fresh in my memory-the fatalist relationship of a country boy with killer typhoons. Almost every typhoon that hit us is something stored in the inner recesses of the mind for immediate retrieval. Until this day, a typhoon warning still triggers all the adolescent recollections. Believe it or not, I still trust that a typhoon is magical and spiritual, carrying some mysterious message. As long as you listen carefully, you can always read something into it. Whatever you want to tell the typhoon, it will take your words to the furthermost end of the world.
Now that I am a city dweller inhabiting a flat ,cement stratified, impregnable with four walls of iron and steel, totally free from the lethal impact of a typhoon. Yet I still retain a childlike liking for it as it stalks like a pack of wolves at me. Lying low in my high-rise stronghold , I keep gazing and gasping at it, trembling and inexplicably exciting. Sometimes, I even deliberately open the windows and let the winds come in for a while, as if challenging it “I am here. Come for me.” They get my hint and troop in, baring their fangs and brandishing their claws, jostling and elbowing their way before sweeping cups, vases and toys off the table and even awakening other small items lying dormant in the invisible corners and nooks of the house.
However, before they wreak a real havoc and reduce the house to a total mess, I will close the windows in time to cut short its path as if to reenact a long forgotten typhoon in miniature. I will pause to sniff at it, figure out and try to identify which is which. The same old scent, the familiar breath, so sweet and bitter and intimate. I would like to believe that these typhoons contain and preserve all the secrets of the past world, my adolescence. Therefore, after the dramatic rehearsal, I will sit in front of the windowsill, in pensive mood again, with my eyes glued to a book while the storms continue hard beating at the lighted windows, an experience beyond description ,say, when d the sun shines brilliantly and peacefully in a clear sky. I admit one day I am getting advanced in years, I would join in the ranks and files of the elusive typhoons and head anywhere with them on earth in a humble and mad attempt to comprehend even a tiny portion of their indecipherable secrets.
Therefore, the idea of writing a novel about typhoon has brewed in me for long. In 2016, I finally completed a full-length novel Beware of a Typhoon! (published by Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House). This trumped story occurs in a fictitious town called Egg Town, chronicling and depicting the fate of a group of townsfolk with typhoon as its central image. Against the devastation and horrendousness of the typhoon, the light and gloom of human nature are magnified while the metaphorical power of human beings and whimsical typhoons are tugging in opposite directions. Regionalism imbues the novel with an atmosphere, at once magical and tantalizingly inscrutable, an ambiance redolent of adolescence vanished. I believe that I have now read more into the mind of the typhoon than ever. More significant is the increasing skill of me as a novelist to deal with the relationship between history, memory, and reality. Beware of a Typhoon! is a pure Chinese story, from South China, about typhoons which form such an archetypal collective consciousness of my people. The " Beware of a Typhoon! " is a love-and-hate dialogue between me and the typhoon as a gift on my part to ensure that my hometown and its miserable and dignified people will not be forgotten or ignored in this new age of globalization.