Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Girl who played Go

The Girl who played Go – Shan Sa

To choose a novel, which I have to admit that I love the most, among many other impressive novels available in my bookshelf, is really difficult. And more difficult than that is to write about this one in order to express my own feeling just within 500 words. In fact, I myself love reading happy-ending novels which are like the fairy tales: eventually the prince and the princess will be able to live happily forever with each other. And frankly speaking, I intended to write about this kind of books when I received this assignment. But after quite a long time considering, I decided to write about a novel written by a Chinese author, which actually doesn't have any happy ends for any characters at all. This novel is The girl who played Go, written by Shan Sa.

The Girl who Played Go is told in alternating chapters, by a sixteen-year-old Chinese girl living in a Manchurian town in the late 1930s and a Japanese soldier who eventually comes to be posted there. It seems that they have nothing in common. The girl, at the age of an adolescent, is more concerned with intimations of her own womanhood than the escalating hostilities between her countrymen and their Japanese occupiers. The soldier, who is bound by his family-esteem, is busy following his desire to devote all his life for his beloved country. However, because of the fate, when the Japanese soldier is sent there undercover, dressed up like a Chinese man, they meet each other. They spend their time playing the Go with each other in the Square of a Thousand Winds, they observe each other, and they note the changes each other is going through. Through the Go, they can understand each other, they can read the mind buried deep down inside each other, but they never get into any sort of conversation, even just exchange their names.

During their time enjoying the game of Go, they seem to forget about the cruel world outside with a lot of problems and misery they have to face up to, as the soldier says: "[...] when I am in the middle of a game of Go, I am completely intoxicated and cut off from the outside world.". They seem to be like that forever. They may keep returning day after day to continue their game if the Japanese do not capture many of the insurgents, which affects both of the go-players. The girl is worried about her fate and eventually, she moves to action. She leaves her hometown, and also leaves her youth there. At this moment in time, the two are separated. They are separated to prepare for a miserable meeting in the future, which is surely unexpected.

To me, this book is not an easy one to read. It reveals a horrible and disordered period which is full of conflicts: the conflicts between the two different people yearning to belong to each other but cannot, the conflicts between China and Japan, the conflicts that progresses locally in those same small moves as a game of Go does, which all make my mind occupied after reading. But there is one truth that cannot be denied: Shan Sa has succeeded in creating such a beautiful story like this.

It is beautiful in the way Shan Sa describes the ideal, the iron will of a soldier who strives for devoting all his life to his beloved country without any fear of dying.

It is beautiful in a normal-but-not-peaceful life of a girl who is in the middle of adolescent and adult.

It is beautiful in the way the Mother of the soldier sacrifices her own happiness for her country [ her husband and her sons all leave the family to join the army ]. She must be the symbol of the typical Japanese women.

It is beautiful in many other characters such as Man, Kinh, Duong, who are full of enthusiasm. They love with all their hearts, and they never hesitate to devote their youth to protect their own country. They pass away but their deaths will forever remain in the minds of readers.

And there still have more and more people who make this story so beautiful. It is so beautiful that even I don't understand why I cannot breathe while reading some last pages of this novel. It is not until the end that I can realize that the two main characters haven't had their names mentioned yet. To the girl, the soldier is just " a Stranger ", and to the soldier, the girl is just simply " a Chinese Girl ". This small detail seems to be so big when it makes me feel lost, just like they will disappear for ever and I can never find these two persons once again. And due to this fact, it hurts me a lot when the two of them meet each other again, but the first time with their real conditions.

"Do you realize me?" says the soldier.

"Don't be afraid, I will follow you. I will protect you in the Neverland." says the soldier.

"I know that we will continue playing our game in that place far far away." says the soldier.

"In order to see my beloved one, I did try to keep my eyes opened." says the soldier. And these are his last words. Till then, they haven’t been able to exchange their names yet.

Frankly speaking, up till now, I myself don't really know whether this is a happy end or not. Anyway, eventually, they can live happily with each other in the Neverland. And as the soldiers says, I believe that they will be able to continue their incomplete game there, and to begin playing many other ones, forever and ever.


.S said...

way to go !!!!!! I have to admit that your writing skill is really impressive ^^ , it's just way beyond Bee that I used to know hahah ..
keep your work up, I really really wanna read more

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. This work reminds me of Sorrow of the War, written by Bao Ninh. Amazingly, they have a lot in common. ^^

Bee said...

oh really ? so i will try reading that book someday :x thank you for your recommend :X aniway, who are you ? :|

.S said...

hahah .. I can't explain why I read your comment, it always cracks me up, hahah .. just look at the yahoo emoticons and read those words I can imagine how your voice and tones are .. up and down .. up and down ... hahah .. especially when it comes to the last part " aniway, who are you ? :| ? .. it sounds to me like you're running into someone who you've no idea who they are and said " Hello my name is Bee " , then run away without asking their name back hahah .. so funny B.

bee said...

in my opinion thì i feel that there has nothing funny here, hứ, and to be frank, i think you are so hâm, hứ hứ hứ >:p

why don't you use your full nik ??? S. seems like you wanna make others have no idea who you are hô hô but what a pity, i totally know that you are a relative of họ nhà Trư =))

.S said...

~_~ , hey do you want me to write out fully your lovely sweetie nick name :"> ..

.S said...

hahah I've just come up with " never-ending-width" =))

bee said...

~.~ no fun ~.~

.S said...

:"> :">
hey , go skype and see me ,maybe I can help you reinstall YM :">

bee said...

i havent loaded Skype yet :"> and i'm not in the mood to download it now :">

nguyen said...


I received ur luvly request in my blog. so I just can't ignore and 've gotta come here to see ur work, honey

while I read this, what I think is that you put everything into an incredibly proper situation.
so together, they build a good story.

well done honey. luv u ^^

(by the way, I have no idea why I don't like this book anymore recently. when I think about it, I just feel so annoyed at this stupid girl. she doesn't deserve to get that wonderful boy. she's so much selfish and childish)

anyway, I don't like the way someone named S and u talking to each other. It somekind of ruining the beautiful scene of this blog.

hey S, Bee is my lover. so don't disturb her anymore ok!!!!!!!!

P/S: I'm waiting for our honeymoon at VT nextweek babe hí hí

bee said...

dear honey,

my mother still does not agree to let us go to VT on ourselves. she said it would be very dangerous if we did not have an ADULT be with us :|

so, what do you intend to do now honey ??? :| our honeymoon seems to become a dream which cannot come true just bcuz of my mother :| =))

nguyen said...

dear honey,

ur mom can't seperate us. I never let this happen!!!

so how about ur aunt? she's gonnna be our hope, our love's sunlight, right? ^^

tớ muốn đi VT. muốn điiiiiiiiii :((

bee said...

đc 8đ đc 8đ bài này đc 8đ hú hú hú

vui quá đi :X :X :X Lớp ko có ai 9 đâu nha :X :X :X

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