Body-language and nonverbal communication

Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch

“……………Tonight, as this Chinese train pursues its inexorable journey, neither the hardness of the seat nor the press of his fellow passengers seems to bother him. Nor is he distracted by the alluring passenger in oversized sunglasses (a showbiz wannabe travelling incognito, perhaps?), sitting by the opposite window beside a young couple and across from three elderly women. She is graciously tilting her head in his direction while resting her elbow on the folding table. But no indeed, neither train nor intriguing stranger can offer our Mr. Muo such transport as he finds this moment in words and writing, the language of a distant land and especially of his dreams, which he records and analyses with …………………..professional rigour and zeal, not to say loving tenderness.

Now and then his face lights up with pleasure, especially as he recalls or applies a phrase, perhaps even an entire paragraph, of Freud or Lacan, the two masters for whom his esteem is boundless. As though recognising a long-lost friend, he smiles and moves his lips with childish glee. His expression, so severe just a moment ago, softens like parched earth under a shower; his facial muscles slacken; his eyes grow moist and limpid. Freed from the constraints of classical calligraphy, his writing has become a confident Western scrawl, with strokes growing bolder and bolder and loops ranging from dainty to tall, undulating, and harmonious. This is a sign of his entry into another world, a world ever in motion, ever fascinating, ever new.

When a change in the train’s speed interrupts his writing, he lifts his head (his true Chinese head, always on guard) and casts a cautious eye overhead to make sure his suitcase is still attached to the luggage rack. In the same reflex, and still in a state of alert, he feels inside his jacket for his Chinese passport, his French residency permit, and his credit card in the zippered pocket. Then, more discreetly, he moves his hand to the back of his trousers and runs his fingertips over the bump produced by the stash in his underpants, where he has secreted the not-inconsiderable sum of ten thousand dollars, cash………………..”

I hope you are interested to read more about him and her.

The book follows Muo, a French psychoanalyst, who returns to China to rescue his university sweetheart. She is referred to as “Volcano of the Old Moon” (the characters of her family name represent “old” and “moon,” and her given name is composed of the characters for “fire” and “mountain”); while her given name is never revealed, her initials are H.C. Volcano of the Old Moon never makes an appearance in the book, but is thought of often by Muo. (A reviewer noted the similarity to the device of J. D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye, where he refers to a Jane Gallagher who never appears.)

The story is not always told chronologically. It sometimes tells where Muo is, then later accounts for how he reached a particular place. The book switches into the point of view of Muo by use of his journal entries or letters, but is otherwise written in the third person.

——————————————————————————————

Here another book review .
 
It’s no great wonder that Dai Sijie’s novels wheel around the clashing and blending of cultures—a Chinese writer-director based in Paris, Sijie writes in French about the impact of European writing on Chinese provincials. His life, like his work, is a rich cultural torte, and the translation of his books into English just adds another layer. But while Sijie’s new novel, Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch, follows some of the same themes as his bestselling debut, 2001’s Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress, it loses much of the simple, fable-like quality that made Seamstress so potent. Sijie’s debut was about ideas and emotions that cross national and even chronological boundaries; the follow-up demotes that concept to just another element in a disorganized jumble.

Seamstress follows a pair of young Chinese men whose lives, placed on hold by the Cultural Revolution, are rekindled by a cache of forbidden Western novels; Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch varies the formula by moving the action closer to the present-day, and centering the protagonist’s obsessions around academia rather than literature. The titular Muo, a shy, fumbling 40-year-old returning home to China after more than a decade studying psychoanalysis in Paris, is more devoted to spreading Freud’s teachings than to furthering his own experience—he readily dissects the sexual content of strangers’ dreams, but he’s a virgin himself, and even the prospect of sex seems to unnerve him. So long as he’s psychoanalyzing (or fantasizing about) women, he’s on solid ground, but once an interaction turns personal, he panics and loses his way, even questioning Freud’s efficacy in the face of Chinese attitudes toward sex, gender, and the yin/yang rift.

Mr. Muo eventually develops a plot, as Muo attempts to procure a virgin for a corrupt local judge, in payment for the release of a political dissident whom Muo adores from afar. But like so much about the novel, that plotline never finds resolution or focus. Sijie illustrates his dry, loosely connected comic riffs in expansive, flowery prose; at least in the English translation, it can be hard to burrow between sentences and find meaning and motive. Muo himself is a mystery—his idol Freud would doubtless trace his dysfunctions to childhood, but Sijie never explains why Muo is an ineffectual mess, and barely touches on his history or even his present feelings, beyond hapless confusion. Which leaves the book dense, busy, and unsatisfying. Sijie certainly predicates some humor on the idea that China’s first Freudian is more in need of analysis than anyone he runs across, but like the rest of the book, it’s a joke with no form, and no punchline.

http://www.avclub.com/articles/dai-sijie-mr-muos-travelling-couch,4474/

0 comments
Submit comment