300 short stories:: story 164

story: “The Great Wall of China”

author: Kafka

year: published 1931, written 1917

where: outside, nice autumn weather in the Dhabs

note: a story about nation-building, oh brilliant brilliant Kafka

a line: “In this respect of course our own age had a great advantage over that long-past one; almost every educated contemporary was a mason by profession and infallible in the matter of laying foundation. But that was not at all what the scholar was driving at; instead he claimed that the Great Wall alone would create, for the first time in history of mankind, a secure foundation for a new Tower of Babel. ”

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300 short stories:: story 103

story: Train to Harbin 

author: Asako Serizawa

year: 2016

where: Abu Dhabi, my gold chaise lounge

note: This is a story both epic and intimately personal about a Japanese doctor stationed in Pingfang (now Northern China, then the Japanese puppet-state Manchukuo) during WWII, where terrible war crimes, including human experimentation, were committed.

a line: “Perhaps it is simply the mind, which, in its inability to accept a fact, returns to it, sharpening the details, resolving the image, searching for an explanation that the mind, with its slippery grasp on causality, will never be able to find. Most days I am spared by the habits of routine. But when the air darkens like this, turning the windows inward, truncating the afternoon, the present recedes, its thin hold on consciousness no match for the eighty-two years that have already claimed it.”

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