How do you choose what to read from a library or a bookstore full of books? When it comes to English titles, these days, I have a set of authors that I keep going back to. As for Chinese titles, it is still this whole new experience of discovery and exploration. Quite a few I have borrowed were returned to the bookshelf the next day. One friend once asked, “Do you finished all the books you pick?” For English books, it is a yes. Because I often know what I am going into. Book reviews are everywhere in the Internet. There is even a great book I have – The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages – to help me decide what to read next.
In 1995, Cosmos Books in Hong Kong held a writing competition, on literature. Not romance, thriller, short stories, or popular fiction. But on literature. First of its kind during that era, the book publisher had put aside a budget of US$60,000 to make it happen. 《補充記憶》(a translated title by me would be “Memory Refill”) by an author I have read recently came out as 2nd runner up. There was no worthy winner so there were two 1st runner up winners instead. What a strange way to round up the competition. Nonetheless, the motivation of the competition was to rekindle the passion of literature writing in mid-90’s Hong Kong. That gets me thinking. If the majority of the locals say in Singapore read materials created by the West – an inevitable reality of cultural influence (or shall I say domination?) – who will be there to support the local writing industry that would create works that represent a fragment of our society?
Back to Chinese book selection and this book “Memory Refill”, I pick this book to read because it is a award winning material – however small scale the competition might be – and it is a literature, not a popular fiction. I would still say the author’s latter work 《嘉年華會》- “Carnival (2008)” – has a higher literature value. Having said that, those who enjoy reading the short story 《啤酒》(“Beer”) would enjoy reading 《補充記憶》(“Memory Refill”).
The main character of the novel is a forty years old doctor Jung-ji 容易 (literally means “Easy”, a comical derivation – I suppose – by her promiscuity, or I would read it as 容兒 – a phonetically sounded female name) and her twenty-odd years old patient NO who has suffered memory lost after a car accident. Is it a blessing in disguise that one losses his or her memory? Jung-ji ponders. As the doctor helps the patient to regain his memory, through unconventional means that are no lacking in humor, the doctor herself recollects her painful memory that she would want to lose. Her failed relationships (or failing as a matter of fact) and men who simply would not stay. The story development is not linear and it is a pleasure to read, for me that is.
“Memory Refill” is not a love story. It is a journey of a woman seeking closure to the relationships of the past.
Additional Info: Singapore library tag is WGPU and ISBN 962-950-209-7.