This is a plug for one of my favorite novels I’ve read last year, Until We Meet Again/Jusqu’a ce qu’on se revoit/别日何易 by mockmockmock. Romance, humor, history, culture, and philosophy are blended flawlessly in this travelogue across Europe and China. The reader follows The Disguiser‘s Ming Lou and Ming Cheng on a journey of self-discovery in mostly the lead-up to the drama. Even if you, like me, haven’t read fanfic since 2010 , I highly recommend it.
The story begins in Vienna on Easter 1933. In true spy style, the Mings meet in front of a painting at a museum. Ming Lou had just finished chatting about Keynes and ism’s. Ming Cheng had just returned from military academy in Leningrad. They eat cake, listen to opera, exchange intelligence, and brush hands. The joys of reunion cannot hide whispers of the recent election in Germany.
They celebrate Christmas with a jovial Seville family, but do not miss the underlying tensions of the impending Spanish Civil War. They share their first kiss by the Neva river, but the beating of their hearts cannot quieten Ming Cheng’s questions about his friends’ mysterious disappearances. They shower in the British rain and sing on Qinhuai River, but always in the back of their minds is the war brewing both around them and back home in China.
The two most difficult parts of portraying Ming Lou and Ming Cheng are the two characters’ relationship and their ideology. With someone as powerful as Ming Lou, it’s difficult not to follow him and take his word as the Gospel. Yet that would make Ming Cheng no different than a very useful robot. The drama did an amazing job of making the relationship come to life, Wang Kai did an exceptional job of asserting Ming Cheng’s independence through acting, and of course, the small interactions between the actors made this one of the cutest dramas ever.
Mockmockmock portrays the formation of this relationship flawlessly. Ming Lou never teaches Ming Cheng what to think, but how to think. Being the older one, he guides Ming Cheng in forming a judgment system, but leaves the world for him to explore and judge himself. It is only then can they grow to become the confidants and soulmates that they are, rather than Ming Lou being the master or paternal figure.
The most thought-provoking sections for me are the Leningrad and Paris 1939 chapters. Other than Leningrad being a beautiful confession chapter, the two chapters depict two individuals who have seen and acknowledged the horrors of totalitarianism in the name of communism, but they fight not for that, but for a world that they believe in. It spoke to my own paradoxical respect for those who fought for equality and independence but disgust at many of the events that followed orchestrated by some of the same people. I don’t think I’ve seen any Chinese drama that does nearly as good a treatment of this issue (if at all).
While the author does not shy from the darkness of the world, in the end,she is an idealist like Ming Lou and Ming Cheng. And if anyone, her writing embodies my ideals of the two. In Until We Meet Again, you’re presented with a world of poetry and art, brilliance and beauty. You fall in love with the world and its people, only to see them torn apart by prejudice and hate. Yet as you gaze at the ruins of Guernica through the eyes of Ming Lou and Ming Cheng, you see not only suffering and despair, but also a world waiting to be rebuilt.
“There are no supreme saviors in this world. The type of world I want, I will forge her.*”
-Ming Cheng, Paris 1939, Until We Meet Again
P.S. The author has also written a number of other stories based on Ming Lou and Ming Cheng. I haven’t had time to read them, but I expect them to be good. I also highly recommend her short essay on Ming Jing’s problematic attitudes and why it’s okay to have her have them in her period but not in ours.
* Translation from Chinese partially based on Charles H. Kerr’s translation of L’internationale, which I believe is the reference in this quote.