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One Million Characters

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788,095 Characters to Go

murrayjames

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Earlier this week I finished reading the novella 《一个女剧院的生活》 by 沈从文. 《一个女剧院的生活》 is a story about several men of different ages and stations in life all vying for the love of a beautiful and talented young actress. While the men contend for her love, the actress, 萝, rejects their advances. The opening chapters of the novella establish a love triangle, which later turns into a love quadrilateral, which later turns into a love pentagon. Much of the novella consists of drawn out conversations about love in the abstract; of men having trying to convince 萝 to be with them; and of 萝 criticizing the men’s behavior and mannerisms and words. Here is an example of one such conversation. The conversation is between 萝 and her uncle(舅父), who criticizes 萝 for her capricious treatment toward one her suitors.

 

Quote

萝:我羡慕的就是孤立无援。我希望的就是独行其是。
舅父:你是一个英雄,可是将来一定跌在平凡的阱里。一个同习惯作战的人,到后来总是免不了粉身碎骨。
萝:我不为这个所威胁。我明知用舅父生活作证,是保守得到了胜利。可是我现在应当选择那使我粉骨碎身的事,机会一来,我就非常勇敢跳下阱里去!
舅父:到那时你想爬起可迟了。
萝:我决不这样懦怯!若是说追悔原是人类所有的一种本能,这一定是那些欢喜悲呀愁呀男女所有的本能。
舅父:你永不追悔吗?
萝:因为我认定那是愚蠢事情。

 

While 沈从文 is a talented storyteller, I didn’t much like this novella. I found the story boring and didn’t care about its characters. I also found the dialogue tiresome. In over half the conversations in this story, characters lecture each other, chastise each other, and engage in overlong detached disputations on love and freedom. That is not what people in love do. 沈从文 made his female lead character unlikeable. 萝 has this tremendous power to make any man around her want to marry her. But rather than be gracious, wise, or even shrewd, 萝 is haughty, hectoring any man who would presume to compete for her affections. In the real world, this kind of behavior would lead to gossip, resentment, and reputational damage. In 《一个女剧院的生活》, no one seems bothered by her badgering. The men in this novella don’t come off much better than 萝. They are desperate, neurotic, feckless, vain. This story would be more believable if it had contained a strong supporting female character. There are a female student actress and an 阿姨 (who works for 舅父), but these characters don’t have much to say.

 

Also, the dialogue is sometimes cheesy. An example:

 

Quote

士平先生:你不能今天这样明天又那样。
萝:谁能加上这个限制?秦始皇统一了天下,也不能统一我的感情!

 

Yech.

 

At 61,154 characters, this novella is the longest work I have completed so far this year. The language wasn’t too hard and should be accessible to any advanced Chinese-language learner. (The quotes above are fairly representative, difficulty-wise.) 《一个女剧院的生活》 is the third work of 沈从文’s I have read. The first was his short story 《牛》, which I loved.  The second was the short story collection 《虎雏》, which was pretty good. My reading list contains many other works by 沈从文, including his classic novels. I plan to read some other authors, then come back to him.

 

Link to 沈从文’s 《一个女剧院的生活》:
https://m.ixdzs.com/d/116894

 

Some statistics:
Characters read this year: 211,905
Characters left to read this year: 788,095
Percent of goal completed: 21.2%

 

List of things read:
《三八节有感》by 丁玲   (2,370 characters)
《我在霞村的时候》by 丁玲   (10,754 characters)
《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》by 毛泽东  (18,276 characters)
《自杀日记》by 丁玲   (4,567 characters)
《我没有自己的名字》by 余华   (8,416 characters)
《手》by 萧红   (7,477 characters)
《牛》by 沈从文   (8,097 characters) 
《彭德怀速写》by 丁玲   (693 characters)
《我怎样飞向了自由的天地》by 丁玲   (2,176 characters)
《IBM Cloud文档:Personality Insights》 by IBM   (25,098 characters)
《夜》by 丁玲   (4,218 characters)
《虎雏》by 沈从文   (46,945 characters)
《在巴黎大戏院》 by 施蛰存 (6,181 characters)
《分析Sonny Stitt即兴与演奏特点——以专辑《Only the Blues》中曲目 《Blues for Bags》为例》  (5,483 characters)
《一个女剧院的生活》 by 沈从文   (61,154 characters)



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Percent of goal completed: 21.2%

Percent of year complete: 27%

 

So still on track to reach your goal.  A couple more longer texts will probably set you out in front.

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murrayjames

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Thanks @imron. Still on track!

 

In addition to the works listed in my post, I am reading two longer works, each over 100,000 characters. Since I am tens of thousands of characters in, that puts me over 27%.

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