The Noodle Maker
Ma Jian

“We”re finished,” she told the professional writer when she visited his room one night, half drunk. “This generation knows nothing about suffering, or isolation. Their hearts are numb.”

“And what good does isolation bring?” the writer asked.

“They just don”t take life seriously.”

“Neither did I at their age.”

“Writing demands complete sacrifice. You must pour your soul into the work. Every word has to be paid for in sweat and blood.”

“But if you cut yourself off from today”s world, how can you hope to write about it?” the writer said.

“Writers are the products of their times. A shallow world produces shallow writers. I can”t help missing those years we spent in the re-education camps.”

“The world has moved on,” the writer said. “You”ve been left behind. Those young women understand today”s society better than you. Perhaps a purer form of literature will emerge from their numb minds. They have no prejudice, no interest in politics. Their problems are pretty personal. But your time is already over.” p. 88-9

My first piece of advice to you is: never believe anything a man tells you. Above all never trust a writer – they trap you in a web of words from which there is no escape. They earn their living making things up, they are professional liars. They tell you stories about things that never happen in the real world. At least, I”ve never witnessed any love story like the ones they write about in their books. p. 115

“The Absurd is more real than life itself,” the street writer scribbled on the corner of his newspaper. p. 117

Of course, he never posted them. They were the most personal and truthful letters he ever wrote. p. 122

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