Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What is happening to me?

I was walking with Tu Nguyen Ngoc along San Pedro street last Friday when I told her we were about to pass by a good bookshop I have not visited for a long time. She said she wanted to go. So, walking past the security guards who poked into our bags as if we were hiding something, we entered one of the shops of Lachmi, a (pseudo)mall along San Pedro, and entered the lone bookshop whose titles on the shelves engrossed us as soon as we arrived: the first books that caught my eyes were on climate change and changes in the weather, before I strayed again and caught a glimpse of Sidonie Gabrielle Colette’s “Gigi,” a translation from French, of course. Tu and I were so absorbed with the books before us when suddenly, we felt one or two teenagers arriving, scattering some of the books in the bin. Then, just as suddenly, the whole place was already swarmed by noisy teenagers looking for something. Do you have a title by Shin-Shinwa, what’s his name, Shinwa Abebie? One of them asked the bookstore owner. “Chinua Achebe?” I asked, looking up from Donald Hall’s “Eagle Pond,” “Yes, yes, that’s it,” the girl said, turning to me, “Have you seen it, Ma’m?” “'The Man of the People,’ Mam?” “How about the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ma’m?” Another one asked, so, I replied, “I saw the Scarlet Letter, somewhere over there,” pointing to the shelves where a mix of classics, contemporary and even business and economics titles were displayed. “But I’m looking for "The House of Seven Gables, Ma’m.” “I haven’t seen the House of Seven Gables, so far,” I said. “What is it about, Ma’m?” she asked, as another one said, “I’m looking for ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ Ma’m, have you seen it?” “The novel by Victor Hugo?” I asked, wondering about whose translation, and if high school students were already made to tell the difference of one translation from another. “Yes, yes! By Victor Hugo, how come you knew, Ma’m?” “Are you a teacher, Ma’m?” “How come you knew all these things?” I was taken aback.

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