A Walk­ing Con­tra­dic­tion

我总是矛盾着

Special Focus - - Contents - By Ge You

Till the age of eigh­teen, I had no idea what the fu­ture would hold for me. At that time, I was fas­ci­nated by my fa­ther’s act­ing ca­reer. I thought I would be among his loyal au­di­ence for life.

When the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion was over and art col­leges started en­rolling stu­dents, I sud­denly seemed to know what I wanted to do. When I was tak­ing the en­trance exam to an art col­lege, the ex­am­iner asked me to act for him, so I cov­ered up a girl’s eyes while stand­ing be­hind her. I for­got to re­move my hands, be­cause I was so ner­vous. Then the girl had to im­pro­vise the scene, chang­ing my role from her lover to a rogue.

My per­son­al­ity can be summed up in two words: shy and timid. I was very dif­fer­ent from my fa­ther. He had a fiery tem­per and per­formed boldly be­fore an au­di­ence of thou­sands. Not me. I would step back from be­ing the fo­cus of at­ten­tion. For ex­am­ple, if there were ten peo­ple at­tend­ing an event, I would in­stinc­tively sit in the rear. I was so ner­vous that I would eas­ily break into cold sweats. As I ap­proached the en­trance to the the­ater, I would be very ap­pre­hen­sive, as if there was a ma­chine gun await­ing me in­side.

As I grew older, clearly, I could not con­tinue be­ing so in­tim­i­dated by such sit­u­a­tions. So, I pre­tended re­laxed, imag­in­ing myself act­ing in a film. I feigned to­tal self- con­fi­dence. My ruse

was not con­vinc­ing. Some­body said, “Every­body can tell you are ner­vous be­cause your fore­head is all sweaty. Plus, you don’t talk in a nor­mal voice.” So, I ad­mit­ted to myself, I was help­lessly in­se­cure. I stopped play­ing the tough guy, and in do­ing so, I fi­nally gained some peace of mind.

I grew up around the Bei­jing Film Stu­dio and had plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to come across fa­mous Chi­nese ac­tors, such as Yu Yang, Zhao Ziyue, and Zhang Ping. My neigh­bors were all fa­mous ac­tors in China. Some­times af­ter fin­ish­ing watch­ing a movie they were in, I would see them rid­ing their bi­cy­cles, their bas­kets filled with fresh Chi­nese cab­bage, as if they had just come off the screen.

If I could go back in time, I would re­turn to the pe­riod in my life when I was work­ing to be­come fa­mous. I liked the ti­tle of one of Li Ao’s books, UpandDown

theHill . I feel those words best de­scribe my life. When a per­son strives to be­come suc­cess­ful, ev­ery­thing is an up­hill bat­tle. Ev­ery­thing is un­known. You don't know where you are go­ing, or how far you can go, and the road is al­ways go­ing up. In clas­sic love sto­ries of the world, life is al­ways with­out a pre­dictable end­ing, like Romeo and Juliet, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Ying­tai, just to name a few.

Life is full of sur­prises. Af­ter act­ing in Farewell My Con­cu­bine, I didn’t win any awards. I didn’t get no­ticed for my work. But af­ter ToLive wrapped, I re­ceived wide­spread ac­claim. And ev­ery­thing af­ter that was smooth sail­ing.

Be­sides oc­ca­sion­ally you need to play dead, be­ing an ac­tor also means you are “risk­ing your life.” I got chronic fa­tigue syn­drome from the heavy work load. It be­came my habit to lie in bed imag­in­ing how to play my next role. And I of­ten sud­denly woke up at night, my mind churn­ing with ideas, un­able go back to sleep.

In the 1990s, peo­ple did not take se­ri­ously those high-rank­ing fig­ures, and wanted to see real peo­ple. De­spite my fame, I see myself as an or­di­nary per­son. At that time, the Chi­nese were starved for hu­mor. No­body was in the mood for a lec­ture. And I was one of those peo­ple. I en­joyed the re­lax­ing, up­lift­ing, and the or­di­nary. No one wanted to pre­tend to el­e­vate any­one’s con­scious­ness. Ev­ery­one was equal. The econ­omy was do­ing well. His­toric ideas were chal­lenged. Ev­ery­one sud­denly re­al­ized that it was not only the peo­ple who looked good or talked well, that were im­por­tant, ev­ery­one was im­por­tant. If Ge You could be on the screen, who else couldn’t be?

Com­pared to some idols, I feel very com­fort­able. I am not afraid of be­ing old, fend­ing off the pa­parazzi, or hav­ing to at­ten­tion whore for pub­lic­ity. First, I don’t want to be the op­po­site of the com­mon peo­ple. Sec­ond, I don’t need to be on the top of the pop­u­lar­ity list. Third, if the price of fame is too high, how tir­ing it would be to live!

What I en­joy most is be­ing alone. I do not get all brain cramped read­ing a few para­graphs from a book, as do some of my friends. I could read at least a dozen chap­ters a day. But there are so many daily in­ter­rup­tions, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for me to fin­ish an en­tire book in a sit­ting.

Peo­ple know I don’t like fly­ing. The rea­son is, I feel more peace­ful on a train. When I go on a train, noth­ing dis­turbs me. I go where no­body can find me, where I can stay for a long time. I sit there, think­ing like an old monk, re­lieved of all bur­dens, en­joy­ing a life that only be­longs to me.

But I also en­joy hav­ing a drink with friends, chat­ting freely, with­out think­ing of any­thing else. I like to lis­ten. I could lis­ten for­ever if my friends didn’ t stop talk­ing. They love to have me along be­cause I am a good lis­tener. Most of­ten I just lis­ten to my friends and, I sel­dom do any of the talk­ing myself.

I am a walk­ing con­tra­dic­tion. I like to be quiet and alone at times, but also en­joy the com­pany of peo­ple. Does that make me a hyp­ocrite?

(From Hap­pyRead­ing . Trans­la­tion: Huilan)

Ge You in ToLive 电影《活着》剧照

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