we meet an Irish man at beer corner. he’s been living in Hanoi for three years teaching English. when he finds out we’re from Boston, he asks if either of us are Irish. we are sorry to disappoint with a no. we are a mix of other pale Europeans, but no Irish. as we drink he says he misses home but he knows his life is better here.
we go with him to a bar down the street where an Irish band is performing. we sing along to “Whiskey in the Jar.” it makes me think of Boston. such strange layers of homesickness, of displacement, to be in Vietnam thinking of Boston, a city populated with the descendants of Irish immigrants, sitting next to an Irish man thinking of Ireland.
I’ve started reading the used copy of Dubliners I bought at Bookworm. I think about how Joyce spent most of his life abroad, away from Dublin, starting in his early twenties. And yet it is Dublin that fascinated him. did the distance make his recollections clearer? was it that he needed the space, needed to rebuild the streets and alleys in his memory in order to bring them to life?
Joyce put it like this: “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”
in the particular is contained the universal. the words stick with me. I think about them as I walk the streets of Hanoi.