FECUND Gimme butterfly kisses! Picnic on literature Stories with a hole in it

Arse of the world

Dutch writer/journalist Simon Carmiggelt wrote a daily column “Cursiefje” in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. As a commentator on everyday life he was unparallel. His writings have an unsuspecting humour with a sharp taste. Camiggelt invented a new word, EPIBREREN, a verb in which one attempts to obscure chic charisma. It’s a word only found in Dutch dictionaries. In 2009, “Amsterdam, Creative Capital” project asked me to translate EPIBREREN into Chinese.

Gao Sha Bee
by Julie O’Yang

In the 10th century, there lived a magistrate in the old Chinese capital of Chang’an. Throughout his career Mr. Chen had been fulfilling different functions assigned by the emperor, who had absolutely no idea of his worthlessness. Mr. Chen appeared to be a busy man though. He worked at his office from dawn to sunset, from winter to winter without neglecting his duty for one single day. Whenever people asked him what he did in there, he looked at them seriously while he tossed the answer: ‘O boy, today I’m afraid it’s another day of Gao Shah Bee.’

Gao Shah Bee — 高下笔, as originally written in Chinese in the above mentioned story — means “holding the pen in the air without doing anything”. Since that was what Mr. Chen did: staring at the documents piling up in front of him without knowing where to begin with.
I propose the spelling Gao Shah Bee (instead of the pinyin transcription, Gao Xia Bi). I like the funny, effective association it brings. Moreover, the pronunciation brings still a few more things in mind.
In Chinese, Gao Shah Bee could mean something high and terrifying, or an impressive wall built of sand, or, in slang, an arsehole holding a high position.
The Chinese are keen builders of walls. Franz Kafka dedicated his famous short story to the Great Wall of China. I too would like to pay my tribute to one of my favourite writers for his great imagination. In Kafka’s writings, walls are looming up everywhere – walls of horror imposing on the individual. His walls are universal and of all time.

julie 超辣

Determined dreamer. Published author in English, Dutch, and Chinese. Former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captain turned artist entrepreneur and screenwriter. She survived the Cultural Revolution as a baby. In the 1990’s she left for London and has lived and worked in free exile ever since. Her work covers a wide spectrum. As journalist, she creates content covering a range of topics on contemporary China from an insider perspective. In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, she hosted a 5-episode talk show TV China for Netherlands’ national broadcaster and discussed China’s media landscape with media stars and experts from both China and the Netherlands. From 2013-2016 she was the Editor-in-Chief of the English/Chinese bilingual magazine XiN 新, focusing on today’s China shaped by consumerism. O’yang contributes a weekly column to Hoje Macau on contemporary Chinese art and culture. Her English language book titles include: Butterfly, a historical crime love story set in the Second World War. Since May 2016 O'yang has been collaborating with Flemish photographer Filip Naudts on an art project, which has resulted in the photo novel The Picture of Dorya Glenn. Julie works from the Netherlands and Denmark.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.