Elisa Hörhager, de nationalité allemande, est étudiante à Sc-Pô (Aix-en-Provence) - sans doute la plus brillante que j'ai eue depuis des années - et à l'université de Lettres où elle suit des cours de chinois. Ayant lu mon précédent billet sur les acacias, elle a eu la gentillesse de m'envoyer ce court récit, simple et délicieux, de Lao She, qu'elle a traduit du chinois en anglais – mon Dieu, elle est ... quadrilingue ! - accompagné d'une brève présentation de l'auteur. Qu'elle soit infiniment remerciée pour sa générosité. Quant à son talent, franchement, je m'incline !
Lao She (老舍), écrivain et dramaturge, est un des plus grandes figures de la littérature chinoise du XXe siècle. Né en 1899 de parents mandchous, il acquiert la célébrité pendant la période de floraison qui fait suite à la révolution littéraire chinoise (1927). Ses deux œuvres les plus connues sont le roman Le tireur de pousse-pousse (駱駝祥子) et la pièce de théâtre La maison de thé (茶馆). Après la révolution communiste, il s'engage dans la littérature révolutionnaire et devient, sous l'ère Mao, une figure influente de la vie intellectuelle. Dénoncé pendant la montée de la Révolution culturelle, il meurt tragiquement en 1966, s'étant prétendument jeté dans le lac Tai Ping (une version généralement contestée aujourd'hui).
Le texte suivant - un exemple classique du genre - est en langue parlée baihua. Il s'inscrit dans la forme de textes courts en prose de la littérature chinoise moderne, le sanwen.
Cultiver des fleurs est peut être un écho à la pratique de la pêche sous la Chine impériale, symbole de l'activité du mandarin qui se retire de la vie politique pour devenir philosophe et penseur. Dans les années précédant la Révolution culturelle, cultiver les fleurs était considéré comme une activité "bourgeoise" et "individualiste".
Les oeuvres de Lao She sont traduites en français chez Gallimard et aux éditions Philippe Picquier.
(La maison de Lao She)
I love flowers, therefore I love to grow them. Even so, I haven't yet become an expert at growing flowers, because I have had no time to experiment and research. I consider growing flowers to be only one of the little joys of life. No matter the size of the flowers or their beauty, I'm satisfied if they open at all. Once the summer has arrived, in our small courtyard the plants and flowers start growing abundantly and the kittens find their playground on the roofs of the houses, as there is no place for their games here on the ground.
There might be many flowers, but no exotic or rare flower grows here. It's really not easy to take care of precious plants and flowers. To see them becoming sick and start to die - what a sad thing that is ! Yet I have no desire to spend my time crying. It can't be said that Beijing's climate is particularly auspicious for the cultivation of flowers. It's cold in winter, the wind is raging during spring, and if summer is not very dry, then the rain pours down. Autumn is the best season of all ; however, there is a risk of everything freezing up suddenly. In such a climate, my talent is not sufficient to try growing southern flowers. That's why I only know how to cultivate resistant flowers which are easy to plant.
Nevertheless, even if plants and flowers are able to defend themselves, if I were to leave them and stop taking care of them to let them live and die as they like, most of them would succumb and wilt. I have to take care of them every day, the same way I would take care of a friend. As time goes by, I have acquired a certain know-how : some like the shade, so they should not be exposed to any sun ; others prefer dryness, these shouldn't be watered too much. It's wonderful how, once one has acquired this basic knowledge, the plants live, and what is more, they live three to five years, and continue to grow flowers... How fascinating ! This isn't showing off, it's true knowledge! Acquiring new skills can't be a bad thing.
As everyone knows, I feel pain in my legs. This not only makes walking a bother, but also sitting down for a long time becomes painful. I don't know if the plants are grateful for the care they receive, but as for me, I have to thank them. While I'm at work, after having written several dozen characters I go and have a look round the courtyard. I water some plants, move several flower pots ; then I go back into the house and return to my work, after which I come back out... I always follow this work cycle ; in a certain manner, I combine intellectual and physical work, and how much better for my body and soul it is - much better even than taking medicine.
If ever a storm breaks loose, or the weather changes in a violent manner, everyone has to be mobilized with the greatest urgency to save the flowers. Several hundreds of flowers have to be brought into the house, so that everyone suffers from muscle aches and is sweating incessantly. The next day, once the weather is fine again, we have to carry all the flowers back out. Again, we all have sore muscles and become sweaty and tired. But it's so intriguing ! Isn't it true that it takes physical effort to make even the tiniest flower grow ?
As soon as the milkman has come through the door and entered our courtyard he exclaims : « How wonderful it smells! ». His reaction makes our entire family feel proud. When the time comes for the Night Blooming Cereus to flower, we arrange to meet with some of our friends, to take a nightly walk in the garden, holding candles in our hands – such a great pleasure! Once the flowers have opened, as each plant divides itself into many buds, I give several of the buds to my friends. When I see the fruits of my efforts being carried away by my friends, I naturally feel very satisfied.
There are of course also unhappy moments. This summer, I had three hundred buds of chrysanthemums in the earth and not yet transferred to the flower pots. A violent rain started pouring down. The garden wall of the neighbors collapsed, and more than thirty different species of chrysanthemums, a hundred or more buds, were crushed. The whole family stopped smiling.
There are joys and sorrows, smiles and tears, flowers and fruits, perfumes and colors, at the same time as there is work ; there is the constant process of learning, and all of this is the joy of growing flowers."