Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The aroma of wood, the coldness of stone, the smell of moss and mushrooms - do these things have a name, do they have an age? Man gives them names, as parents give their children names, although the trees are older than man. Rafflesia arnoldi blooms not in Central Park but in the tropical forest of the Malay highlands and we know its father is an Englishman because he has given the flower its name. People talk about things that grow, both cultivated and native, as if they know them more than the trees know about coldness and sun, or about the warmth of the earth. But animals don't recognize the woods by their names, just as a mother animal or mating pair have no names for their chicks or cubs. They know without language.

From Saman
by Ayu Utami
translated from the Indonesian by Pamela Allen
Equinox Publishing, 2005

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