Wu Di Speaker
Wu Di is vice director of Foreign Literature Council in the Zhejiang Provincial Writers’ Association, the director of the Institute of Comparative Literature and World Literature and professor and doctoral supervisor at Zhejiang University. He also specializes in translating English and Russian literature into Chinese.
His is an expert in American and British literature, Russian literature and comparative literature. He has published five academic books on foreign literature and translated more than 20 foreign literature works, including the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Travel and Hometown
“Travel and Hometown” is such a philosophical and inspiring topic. Although “travel” and “hometown” are two very common words, the meanings are quite vague. What is hometown? What is travel? Hometown is a spatial concept, and travel is a kind of movement that presents the spatial imagination. It is due to travel, and spatial imagination, that human beings walk out of the dark to welcome sunshine, and to have continuous development.
Since “hometown” is a word of spatial concept and refers to our birthplace, “travel” is our path of “growing up.” From a macroscopic view, we were born in the “earth village” as opposed to the grand cosmic space; relative to this “hometown,” the “earth village” that we reside in, “travel” means space travel – it is to realize the admiration of one planet for another and an inevitable path for human beings to learn about nature.
But, from a microscopic view, we were born in the womb, and our hometown is our mothers’ wombs. As we left the womb to be born to this world, we left hometown and started our life journey. When we left the dark womb to move to the bright outside, it was the first trip in our life. If travel is a movement from one world to another, then we, as passengers of life journeys, shall never do anything that will make us feel ashamed confronting the womb.
And from the more common view, “hometown” often refers to our homeland. Most people prefer leaving their hometown. The relation between travel and hometown is parallel to that of the ideal land and the trouble land. Travel is to go to the ideal land, to go beyond the existing complicated social relations and to attain temporary spiritual peace. But our complicated emotions toward our hometown and our feeling of homesick often make settling at the ideal land an illusion – return is inevitable. Homesickness is a recurring theme in literature. It has also become an important part of life. For example, my hometown is Tongling of Anhui Province and I miss Tongling a lot although I have lived in Hangzhou for nearly 30 years. My daughter’s name is “Si Jia” (literally meaning miss home), and my son’s name is “Si Tong” (literally meaning miss Tongling).
What is hometown? What is travel? We are always looking for the answer. In “Book of the Dead,” the earliest written literature, the dead left the body, conducted a long and tough journey in the lower world and always wished to return to the upper world. Odysseus, from the famous Homer’s epic, traveled for 20 years, including ten years of battles and 10 years of wandering around, faced countless temptations and still considered return to homeland his sole purpose. Perhaps, it is difficult to get a commonly agreed answer for this simple question. Whether we return to hometown or leave it for travel, we have done so to explore and to realize life values. The answer in Mikhail Lermontov’s “The Sail” may be worth considering:“