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A Journey Backwards : A hasty goodbye in the wild Jianghu

【明報專訊】Almost six decades ago, two kids went to primary school together every day. That wasn't an affluent era at all, but one kid had the luxury to treat her friend fancy snacks and small toys from time to time. With the little resources they had, the duo enjoyed a childhood filled with laughter and dotted with surprises.

When wuxia novels(武俠小說)by Mr Jin Yong(金庸)swept the Chinese-reading-world, the two friends shared a set of novels among themselves — a luxury very rare at that time. Most kids would queue at the library for the ever-sought-after-books. From The Book and the Sword to Sword of the Yue Maiden, the books opened the kids to a wild imagined jianghu(江湖), introducing them to characters they would continue to love and quote in the many years to come.

Three decades later, the teenage daughter of the less affluent friend got hooked by a wuxia TV drama. Impatient to borrow the still-popular books from the library, she nagged her mom to buy her a set. Naturally, the request got turned down, like many of her other wasteful demands.

Not long after, the teenager came home to find two boxes of wuxia novels sitting neatly at her desk. "Keep it," a note attached said. The pages were aged but the books were in mint condition. Clumsy as she was, she turned every page with care. The weight of history was solid in her hands.

That was how I grew up with an antique set of wuxia novels, still sound and safe on my bookshelf. When the news of Mr Jin Yong's death hit, the books seemed to have lost part of their collective life. The death of their author seems to announce an end of an era, both for the literary world, and for generations of readers whose interaction in real life was intertwined with the words on the pages.

When we realised, the time had passed and the creative life of a literary genius was exhausted. Mr Jin Yong must have been able to shake this grief off conveniently. I wish I had half that ability.

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Mona C. has a strong appetite

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Email: monafpchu@gmail.com

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