Sophisticated people use art to assimilate life. In extreme cases, the process feeds back, and they sublimate the latter to the former. Qiu Miaojin (or her protagonist, Zoë) was an extreme case.
My goal is to experience the depths of life, to understand people and how they live, and to express this through my art. All my other accomplishments mean nothing to me. If I can only create a masterpiece that achieves the goal I’ve fixed my inward gaze upon during my creative journey, my life will not have been wasted. (p. 37)
Xu, even if you’ve already abandoned me, I want to act with the beauty of Antinous and Yourcenar. I am too greedy for life – only this kind of beauty can be the crowning laurels of my existence. I want this crown of laurels so much so as to be as beautiful as Antinous and Yourcenar. Even if you are unwilling to accept this crown that I offer you, I want to transform myself into an idol in the temple of my own life so that I can complete the meaning of my eternal love for you, a sacrificial offering to you who have abandoned me. (pp. 56-57)
Yesterday I went to see Angelopoulos’s film Landscape in the Mist again. When the little boy witnessed the death of the donkey and kneeled on the ground, weeping pathetically in the center of the screen, I cried pitifully with him. I am that little boy, an innocent child who weeps over the death of an animal. Walking with White Whale out of the movie theater into the cool Parisian night’s faint breeze, she said that the movie was so beautiful she could die right there. And I replied that with someone by my side with whom I could share the beauty of such a movie, I could die that night too. Movies are like that, life is like that, and love even more so, no? (p. 83)
Good-night, Zoë, a Zhivago-esque night. (p. 127)