Five Spice Street (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
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'Five Spice Street' is a novel about a street in an unnamed city whose inhabitants speculate on the life of a mysterious Madam X. The novel interweaves their endless suppositions into a work that is at once political parable and surreal fantasy.
sightless. She could see the counter, the roasted nuts and seeds, and the marks on the steelyard (she wasn’t off even a little), and so forth. But she couldn’t see people. When she jostled against 260 us, we felt flustered. It seemed she was still adhering to old principles and wanted to ‘‘meet by chance.’’ ‘‘Waiting for the fish to rise to the bait’’ was written all over her face, and a lot of people on Five Spice Street wanted to be that ‘‘fish.’’ They all nosed around Madam X’s fishhook, and
treasure unexpectedly couldn’t open his eyes because of the rays of light. He took a hard fall—this audacious thief ! In the writer’s eyes, Madam X lived an unprofitable life. She couldn’t actualize her plot. She was lonely, too, as a result of what she did. She didn’t mix with anyone, nor did she have one friend in whom she could confide. Was this worthwhile? Would she keep fishing? After this she would probably catch fewer and fewer fish and in the end run out of patience! The Second Diagram
of his hand.’’ Especially in the winter, when snow covered the roofs and the street, X, curled up all alone in the cold, couldn’t provoke any response, no matter what disturbance she caused. In this season, our people ‘‘fought a great war against the cold’’; ‘‘our spirits as red as fire,’’ we were ‘‘struggling grandly against nature.’’ In such a time, who would pay any attention to Madam X’s mosquito-like moaning? X’s excuse was that the ordinary people ‘‘could not understand the profundity of
wasn’t the least bit intoxicated over today’s election. He couldn’t see anything worth being intoxicated over. He had long ago learned about X. More often than not, when everyone was intoxicated with her, she didn’t notice it at all! At first, he had employed a lot of measures to attract 312 her attention, but they were all ineffectual. One day, he ran into her on the street and greeted her. She just called him ‘‘a newcomer.’’ Of course, not being intoxicated wasn’t the same as wanting to
standards so high that men could never reach them. Her emotions went up and down, wearying other people. But in the past she hadn’t always thought ‘‘the grass was greener on the other side.’’ It was her ‘‘occult’’ activities that changed her. They kindled her sexual prowess and summoned the demons within her, and from then on she was like a hungry wolf looking everywhere for food and provoking endless trouble. Her colleague noticed that a little girl’s innocent expression appeared on Madam X’s