On Carrots by Eileen Chang ~ 张爱玲 《说胡萝卜》 with English Translations


张爱玲 《说胡萝卜》






On Carrots
Eileen Chang

One day, we had a kind of turnip and meat stew on the dinner table, so I asked my aunt, “I suppose turnips and carrots came here from foreign countries in ancient times?” She replied, “I’m not the one to ask about such things. I don’t know.” She thought for a while and went on:”The first time I came into contact with carrots was when I was little and I had a pet hamster we fed with carrots. I still remember that Granny (my paternal grandmother, that is) would always cut them in half lengthwise and then in quarters before she could put them into the cage. That was how small she had to cut them. If not for the hamsters, we would never have cooked anything with carrots at all. Why we fed carrots to the hamsters I don’t understand.”

I secretly jotted down this little speech, without changing even a single word and then couldn’t help laughing to myself, because all I needed to do was add a title—“On Carrots”—and a stylish little essay appear on the page before me. It may not necessarily attain the resonant simplicity of the best short essays but will nonetheless take up a column on the page of a newspaper. And its wonder lies in brevity: by the time you start reading, it’s already over, which only makes you ponder its meaning all the more

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