Mind-Dancing the Loneliness of Freedom: The Life-dance-story of “Sanmao”1943-1991


Rethinking Freedom

for whom (artist/future readers),
from what (mourning, mass politics),
to move where? (disappearance/deincarnation)

Emblem-song “Olive Tree” (after 1972)

To a great extent, “Echo” chose to live invisibly, like Greta Garbo away (or as away she could be) from the conformist pressures of stardom and microphone: that was/is her contribution to the never-ending dissensus in China about Free/Freedom, which has and not and probably never will mesh with the Anglo-Saxon legalist idea of “no unfreedom save where others’ liberty is infringed/threatened”. She painted “I am a free person” (meaning ‘freed in my lifetime on her blouse. But ziyou (thereupon co- emblazoned) has to do (in Western history) only party with individual emancipation from degraded (female+youth) status. Singly or sometimes collectively, though never in any purposed organization (league of writers etc.): like most Romantics she was by temper an Anarchist. She, “Echo”, is reported to have thrown herself body and soul into the June 4 movement/demonstrations, but was never arrested nor gave cause to be as leader (her status as a ‘phenomenon” and shuffler of ziyou across the valley of meanings made Authority reluctant..). The hands-off however seems only to have sharpened her self-image as a fearless, not-to-be-hemmed-in writer/poet/lyricist, which is now how she has become sanctified, another Shelley drowned (if vicariously, through Jose Maria) in the Mediterranean sea at age 30, also in the company of friends who failed to find him).

Freedom (at least as late-life proclaimed) thus translates as escape from loss, (=fear.expectation of loss?) as extreme as recovery need be to deal with extreme loss(es). Of course one cannot but think of Dadawa (Oumuyounuo’s angel) , also in flight from marriage to a (Canadian) – a traveler to everywhere, but Dadawa’s voyages are not private or lonely: she travels along beaten paths no matter how wretched the roadways, and “echoes” (in her song) the dance and music of the ethnicities she encounters. By Sanmao’s standard, that is a going to, not a voyage away from, culture(s). They seem but are not really related (Dadawa’s rise was after “Echo’s” decline had begun)

(The most anguished tableau of the Dance is of course the armchair, into which she intermittenty collapses- a signalling of loss of impulsive energy..or of its appeal)

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