For Maria Lundberg
By dreaming about the flowering poppies I first know that I am naïve.
has no luster
and cannot be lively either
Every time I am cold lonely in the stream of people
every time I give just as honestly my smile to each one
lonely I love them
lonely I stare at them
Every time I am forced to use another language
— Jimbut, To Observe the Fate that fingers the Ice at Night
Time for A Party
Part One 6
Vientiane, Laos — Bangkok, Thailand — [Copenhagen] — Odense, Denmark. March, 1992 9 Remembrance (Shanghai, China. June — September, 1987) 17
The time when Jimbut was in prison… (Vientiane, Laos. November, 1990 — March, 1992) 28 Remembrance (Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China. September 1987 — April, 1988) 44 Part Two 62
Odense, Denmark, 1992. 63
Remembrance (Yunnan – Chengdu – Nanjing – Shanghai, China. April – June, 1988) 81 When Jimbut was in prison… (Vientiane, Laos. November, 1990 – March, 1992) 98 Remembrance (Shanghai, China. July, 1988) 116
Part Three 134
Remembrance (Shanghai – Fujian – Shangai, China. July – September, 1988) 135 Odense, Denmark. 1992 – 1993. 151
When Jimbut was in prison… (Vientiane, Laos. November, 1990 — March, 1992) 163 Remembrance (Shanghai, China. August, 1986 – March, 1987) 189
Part Four 194
Jimbut left China like this (China – Burma – Thailand. February – May, 1989). 195 Thoughts (about what was wrong in China) 247
Remembrance (Thailand, 1989 – 1990) 250
An essay by Liji: 258
Three small poems by Jimbut: 283
Part Five 287
Gothenburg, Sweden. Summer, 1996 288
When Jimbut was in prison… (Vientiane, Laos. November, 1990 – March, 1992) 302 Remembrance (Shanghai, China. December, 1986 – January, 1987) 325 Odense, Denmark. 1994 – 1997 339
Nürtingen, Germany. New Year, 1997 349
(Odense, Denmark. In present tense, 1997)
At a birthday party
Jimbut is a boring, but smart person. 6
I am a different person, and have known this since I graduated from the Shanghai Normal University in 1986. A seed from a plum tree landed in the corner of my left eye during the graduation party at the University, and ever since then, it has been a nuisance, flowering under my eyelid. It has become proof that I am different. The plum blossom‘s petals have seriously altered my sight, and it has not changed even though I have been in Denmark for about five years. It doesn‘t symbolize anything to me, but since I came to Denmark the petals have made me think of two things: one is that they have something to do with celebration, and the other is that they‘re about a special way of understanding things.
It‘s party time now. A girl from our class has a birthday today.
I am actually aware of what my problem is: I can‘t find anything to talk about with the others. Once I thought it was because of my shyness, but that is only part of the problem. Sometimes, I simply don‘t want to talk. Yes, I do like to talk — to talk about myself —
but certainly things like that nobody else wants to listen to. I am a narcissist and have reason enough to believe that almost everyone else is as well. But from where do they get the desire to talk, and at that, talk well together? Is it because I am different from the others, as I in reality, am different from all other people? No, that can‘t be why. I am a smart person, even though I can‘t stop looking a bit stupid. I have noticed that my
language has hindered me from expressing what I really want to say, and therefore, my problem lies primarily in my Danish. Yes, in my language.
Now I‘m sitting at the table with a bunch of my friends. I look around. The music
is playing loudly in the basement. I like Bob Dylan, but somebody has just put on another CD. It‘s music that I don‘t know at all. The basement is dark and big enough to hold a birthday party. I raise my beer bottle up and suck a bit in. A minute ago Mette was sitting beside me. I attempted to talk to her. After a few sentences I didn‘t know what to say anymore. When there is a party I am often a boring person, a boring Chinese. But I love parties where I sit and drink and watch people, but rarely speak. If I was sober I could concentrate on listening and find out what they‘re talking about, but I‘m not able to do that while I‘m drinking. Danish is the most indistinct language I have ever heard. I marvel at the Danes‘ ability to guess at what they‘re saying to each other, but they just don‘t have the ability to guess at what I‘m saying when I speak Danish too fervently. I can see it on their faces. They look so tired and confused, but smiling all the while because of their politeness, forcing themselves to listen to me (at least that‘s what it looks like). It gives me a bad conscience, so I tell myself: ―If you can‘t handle the conversation, then just shut up.‖
I take another swallow from my bottle. Bottles, glasses and ashtrays are scattered across the table. Torben is sitting on the other side of the table talking to a girl from Copenhagen. I think she‘s Trine‘s friend. Of course she‘s pretty, otherwise Torben wouldn‘t want to talk to her. I was like him 10 years ago, when I was 21. Every time I
came to a party or a poetry reading, I first looked around to see if there were any pretty girls present. That‘s what Torben does now. Torben Slot, my best friend in Denmark. But I also know that there is a big difference between his life now, and my life then. A very big difference.
Now the plum blossom is flowering in my eye. I pluck the petals out and throw them away. Torben studies philosophy with me at Odense University. Compared to me he‘s a young boy, only 20 years old. I met him the first day we started classes. University
life is, of course, not new to me; 10 years ago I completed my bachelor‘s in mathematics. What is new to me is that this is a Danish university. Odense University is on the south-east side of the city of Odense. I can remember once three years ago I wrote to Liji and said that the campus at Odense University looked like the largest prison in Shanghai. At the time I had passed by the campus on the bus, and hadn‘t been inside. I have never been inside the largest prison in Shanghai either, even though I was in custody at the police station in Shanghai in 1987. When I was in Shanghai, I also only saw the largest prison from the outside when I drove by on a bus. But Odense University isn‘t a prison and the campus doesn‘t remind me of the largest prison in Shanghai anymore. To me, the campus means Friday cafés and huge parties, while it doesn‘t, however, force me to think of high academic lectures, because we normally don‘t have many class lectures right on campus. There are some foolish reasons for that. Before Torben and I started, the Institute of Philosophy was thrown off campus. Now it is found in a collection of buildings the students call ―the Barracks‖, where some other academic departments also hold lectures. The students from the Institute of Philosophy usually hold their parties in the Barracks too. In a certain way, the buildings remind me of the language school I went to five years ago.
Well, now I feel excluded when I only sit and drink without talking to anyone. Here comes Bo. He also studies philosophy. What are we talking about? Reincarnation? Yes, it could be, that it is that way, but I just don‘t want to say, or hear, that it has to be that way. If we could hold up a bit with all the talk about religion, we‘d be much better
off. He smiles, slaps me on the shoulder, and begins to discuss the issue with someone else.
I take another swallow from my bottle. I feel really excluded and would like to talk about something with the others here. But what can I talk about? About what it was like when I was in prison? No, boring subject. About China? No, boring again. Or about how 8
I was the best Chinese poet? To me it‘s not a boring subject, but it will surely bore all the others, and furthermore, their reactions will bore me. Why do I only have boring things to say? I‘m old compared to them — 32 years old. I wouldn‘t have accepted someone in
their 30‘s as my friend when I was 20.
Yes, I‘m boring because I‘m old. You can‘t figure out I‘m that old if you don‘t look at my ID card. I look much younger than I am, or more accurately, sometimes I act childishly.
It‘s dark here. I‘m actually afraid that people will think I‘m boring, and then I become even more boring. Once I asked Torben if anyone talked about me behind my back. ―Are you paranoid, or what?‖ he said. In that way I‘m way too Chinese, even though I always claim that I have nothing to do with ―the Chinese‖ or ―the Danish‖ or ―the international‖. Should I admit that ―the Jimbutish‖ is something that brings failure?
No, never. If ―the Jimbutish‖ is something that brings failure, then my life is a failure. But I would feel bad if it was to be like that. I‘m missing balance in myself. Something new has to happen to me. I came to Denmark with the thought that I didn‘t want anymore
passion with suffering. What now? I don‘t have any passion, but the inner-suffering is still
there. Should I go to a psychologist? Nonsense. I know more about myself than they could ever know. When I was in China I used writing to kill the suffering. At the same time, it called forth new sufferings, and for that reason, I became the greatest poet in China, but the consequence was that I was also struck by delusions of grandeur, accompanied by an even bigger ―passion with suffering‖.
If I could just be young again. If I could just be so young again, but still keep my life‘s experience. That is certainly an ―either/or‖ — you cannot have both at the same
time. Youth I have had, and experience I have now. I‘m learning to speak more Danish as I become older; the last time I contemplated myself as young was about five years ago.
Vientiane, Laos — Bangkok, Thailand — [Copenhagen] — Odense, Denmark. March, 1992
I couldn‘t speak Danish then. I remember clearly the day I came to Denmark. It was
March 13th, 1992, after a long flight from Vientiane, via Bangkok, to Copenhagen, where it snowed in the early morning.
Before the trip, I was imprisoned in Vientiane. Just like Thailand, Laos is a summer country where there isn‘t even a trace of the Danish or Shanghai winter. That‘s why I only had a thin monk‘s habit on, and in the plastic bag that was my only luggage, there were two or three more habits.
1 I also remember that Finnish girl, Anu Vasami who worked for UNHCR. When
she accompanied me to the Vientiane airport she gave me 50 US Dollars, the plane ticket from Vientiane to Odense, some documents — among them the visa and the letter from
the Danish Consulate in Geneva, and last, a paper sign with string that said ―I AM JIMBUT!!!‖. She was afraid I would get lost since I had a 13 hour layover in Bangkok
airport between flights.
―There will be somebody from the international refugee organization waiting for you in at Bangkok airport,‖ she said in English. ―You just hang this sign around your neck, and they‘ll easily recognize you.‖ Then she took the sign back again and hung it around her own neck. ―It looks good,‖ she said, and passed it to me.
I grinned and said, ―Maybe I‘ll be embarrassed to wear it.‖
―No, you won‘t be.‖ She grinned too.
When I arrived in Bangkok there really was a man waiting for me in the corridor between the airport‘s landing field and large arrival hall, but I first saw him only when all the other passengers had gone. I recognized him as the one I should meet because he held up a sign that said: Miss Jimbut. Of course I hadn‘t hung my sign around my neck, but instead waved it in his direction. When I got closer I said to him, ―Isn‘t it a Jimbut you‘re waiting for?‖ Before I said that to him he was still searching down towards the exit I had just
come from. I saw clearly the look of surprise on his face.
Then he took my sign, read it, and said in his Thai-English, ―You? Are you
―Yes,‖ I smiled.
―But, ‗Miss‘…Are you, yourself Jimbut?‖
―Yes. I am Jimbut, but I am not Miss Jimbut. I think that there‘s a mistake.‖ Then I showed him all of my documents.
We talked about my further travel and he left the airport. I only had the plane ticket and a piece of paper with the Danish visa, but no passport and no Thai visa either, so I wasn‘t allowed to leave the airport. Before he left, the man said that I should stay until 11:00 in the evening and then somebody else would come and tell me about my further travel. There was about 13 hours until the flight to Copenhagen left.
Outside lay the world I was once familiar with. Those 13 hours could bore me to death. I had tried to find some police officers that I knew from when I was in Thailand before my imprisonment. I thought they could get me out of the airport so I could take a relaxed tour of Bangkok. But I didn‘t find anyone. All the police officers were new faces
1 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees