What was a time you remember being moved, deeply, as if your insides have turned, or doing what they do when you are moved? A stranger had this effect on me: his name is Marko.
Marko Vignjević is a storyteller – he does not live in Singapore, and we were at first unsure if he was a hoax. To prove his existence, Suning and I arranged for a video call. I remember being glad to see a talking head that matched an author’s photo we had found online.
The conversation was about a story he wrote, which he had submitted for publication. From Serbia to Singapore. We were direct and serious in our question and answer. By then, we knew that Marko wrote for a living, and being accepted for publication meant more than it paid. I couldn’t resist asking.
“How do you make ends meet?”
His answer moved me, deeply:
A silence followed, meaningful in its awkwardness.
“I live with my parents in an apartment…”
At that moment, his anonymity as a writer burned brightly in my consciousness, unwavering as his constancy to writing.
So it is the same with Shezlez, the eponymous hero of our latest fiction offering, Shezlez the Self-Proclaimed. An unknown individual in an unnamed country, his endeavour to become somebody ends up being pointless, even laughable. Still, at the heart of this laugh, I felt something stir. It is the same pang when I read about the “sparrow colliding into his bedroom window and falling lifeless onto the sidewalk below”. Perhaps the realisation is that any of us could be a Shezlez, and that Shezlez could be any of us. And that a simple life, however brief and seemingly worthless, carries a singular value.
To all the unacknowledged authors and characters out there, we dedicate Shezlez to you. If fortune prizes you, then all the better. But if you end up with no worldly reward, we wish for you the comfort of company and fellowship – may we join our hands together for a better tomorrow.
(From August 29, 2020)