Friday, 27 March 2009

bia hơi and Toer

Bia hơi Quán Sứ

Ten AM bia hơi, and I am not alone
Today the sun is shining
A faint blue struggles through the smog
To sit and drink and read and write
In the morning, on the street
Watching the traffic on a busy round-about
Smoke curls through my fingers
A woman sells me a safety razor
An ode to my enduring love of Hanoi
Why has the West forgotten these simple pleasures?

OK - its all very good and well of me to wax lyrical about the joys of bia hoi in the morning - but I am in a privileged position. My wallet usually contains half a months wages in Vietnamese terms (did I walk around in Australia with two grand in my pocket? no I didn't). And even the Westerners here look upon me with suspicion as the non-tourist who is unemployed. Whilst others toil at teaching English, I sit in the sun at a bia hoi and write poetry and read books. I've got to be careful... Envy will find me and strike me down. However, after half a life of loyal service to The University of Sydney I am going to take this period laying down. I always thought salaried work was a kind of blackmail. For this short period of time I shall enjoy the opposite. What shall I call it? Whitemale?

I have almost finished the last book in the Buru Quartet - by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps and House of Glass). An extended story of colonialism and the birth of indigenous nationalism in Dutch Indochina around the the beginnings on the 20th century. A must read for anyone interested in colonialism, politics, economics and class repression. Or control of the media, or how to organize a resistance against oppression. A manual for popular uprising, showing many of the wrong paths to take, the perils and successes of social consciousness raising. Or a thesis on why which language you write in counts. There are many good book reviews online, so I shall just provide my imprimatur to these books. They are good. Get on your lazy arse and read them.

Many thanks to deepwarren and hellsexy who physically relayed the last two of the quartet from Oz to here. What would isolated readers do without the international readers' conspiracy?

1 comment:

Deepwarren said...

We, the industrious ants of the West salute you. We have not forgotten the pleasures, they have merely been reordered. Once the concept of what you do rather than how long you where there takes hold, there will be more idling. And, that is something I am looking forwardz to.