Benedict Anderson: A global person

It is impossible to meet Professor Benedict Anderson now. He died in December 2015, around 16 months before I even heard of him.

If he were alive, he would have this languid walk toward the residents of Indonesia, his posture leaning forward to listen as his mind scrambled for the proper Javanese translation of his response. He wouldn’t take notes or carry a voice recorder; his mind would be too sharp and well-trained for that. But when he would reach home or the university or his sponsor’s house, he would pick a pen and notebook and write down all his mental notes in a rush and then carefully. These notes would soon serve him well for his current research and, if not, for his future research whose thesis would be borne out of a single statement made by a fellow instructor who would pass by his opened office door at the university.

At least this is the picture I have gathered from reading Anderson’s memoir, A Life Beyond Boundaries. He died soon after he had finished correcting the proofs of the latest edition of this book. It was originally published in Japanese by NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. in 2009. Then it was published in English for the first time by Verso in 2016. I read the copy published by Anvil Publishing in the same year.

Anderson is successful in pointing out to me, a simple reader, the two major themes of his book. “The first is the importance of translation for individuals and societies,” he says in the Preface.

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Celine Dion and some memories

I was already singing her songs before I got to know the tall, flawless singer. The songs came out through my elongated radio, a black cassette tape player I had bought with the money I had received from an aunt who married a retired American soldier.

That player was fixed in the third row of my bookshelf, sometimes dusty and mostly immovable. In the same way it was fixed on a spot, the player-sleek, curvy and almost inconspicuous-was almost always fixed on one radio station, 96.3 WRock.

I can only count the times I changed the dial to an AM station to listen to “golden music,” as the disc jockeys called it, of Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Dan Hill, Jim Croce, Abba, Bee Gees, Cascades, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, and Air Supply. They were our Sunday best friends over a feast of guso, lato and a kilo of lechon (roasted pig).

But I always go back to 96.3 WRock’s light tunes and a variety of songs for easy listening. Until now, the songs I listened to stuck. Each time my husband belts out a song with his guitar, I can sing some of the lyrics. I surprise him when I do since he knows I’m tone-deaf. When I can’t get the lyrics out, the melody is an annoying buzzing bee in my head. When I try to at least give a hum, I go about it wrongly. Still, I can remember some of the words. When I read them, I can sing them for my own pleasure. 

Of all the songs I’ve listened to through my player, it was Celine Dion’s heart-reaching, heart-turning and heart-squeezing voice who made music more memorable for me.

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