My Books – Sun Li


孙犁 《书籍》




My Books
Sun Li

Soon I’ll part with my books; I’ll have to, the way the ancient hero Xiang Yu parted with his favorite lady Yu at Gaixia.
The books had arrived at my home since 1949, the year the country was liberated (from KMT rule). At first they came piecemeal and, later, in set of bulk, some from Beijing and Shanghai, some from Suzhou and Hangzhou. During the first few years, as I was financially embarrassed, sometimes I had to turn from the books that I would have liked to give everything in exchange for. However, there were occasions on which I threw my money on books with quite a sense of lavish generosity. In short, having kept them company for over 30 years, I felt lifelong intimacy with them all.
During the ten yeas of the disastrous Cultural Revolution I was not in the mood to, nor was I fit enough to bother about my books, as I was not sure where I myself would end up. But, having been taken from place to place, getting moistened and damaged, tortured and trampled underfoot, they eventually had come back to me. Some of them had just got lost, for I had had more to loose in those years and what I had lost was far more important than the books.
After their return home I felt about them with the same affection as I did earlier. I treated them alike, whether they were big or small, old or new, expensive or inexpensive, classical or contemporary, since they had been in my collection, therefore, gone through thick and thin with me. I would sign with significance, when I dusted and caressed them and then found a place for them to go to. I guessed they must have sensed how I felt about their return.
During the past couple of years I had found them some new companions. I no longer stamped my seal or wrote my name on them. When I put them on the bookshelves, I only clothed them with a new cover and marked the date of their arrival. This was because I was well aware that it would not be long before I bid farewell to my books; my fate has been predestined. As for what would happen to theirs, I could not foretell, much less could I guarantee.

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