After reading ‘The Sorrow of War’ I needed a change of subject and picked up ‘The Shepherd’s Life’ by James Rebanks. It immediately transported me to the Lake District, just what I wanted, but found the author’s self righteous tone difficult to fathom. I then returned to Vietnam and Cambodia and enjoyed Tim Page’s book ‘Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden’. It’s a first hand account of the horrors of war and, very movingly, the search for a lost comrade in Cambodia. I then read ‘The Gate’ by Francois Bizot about being both captured by the Khmer Rouge and the siege of the French Embassy in Phnom Penh. It’s an excellent account of this turbulent period of history.
Books always resonate and stay with me, coming back to fill unexpected moments that might otherwise have just passed by. I read sometime ago ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami which has a disturbing scene of a man being tortured and skinned alive. We recently stayed in the Mekong Delta town of Sa Dec where, as we wandered in the early evening through the riverside stalls, I watched in horror as a women skinned live frogs for sale on the floor of the market. A single frog, freshly skinned but determined to both live and escape was attempting to walk away from the pile of its now dead comrades. It had managed to get about a metre away without the women noticing, slowly lifting its white translucent legs across the blackness of the roadside tarmac.
Immediately the Murakami images and those of the market place collided, resonating and communicating the barbarity of what I was now witnessing. I stood still not knowing what to do or whether anyone else had noticed the plight of the escaping frog. The women continued to skin more frogs as I turned and finally moved away. The only answer I could take away from this moment was that I’d try to eat less meat and fish in the future and will become more of a vegetarian in my food choices.