Literary Fiction

Letters from a Nameless Village

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Synopsis

After failure in ambition and in love, a man leaves the city and settles in a nameless village, where he finds peace and meaning among its simple inhabitants. He writes a series of letters to an old friend detailing his experience, but there are flickers of madness and doubt upon the pages, leaving one to wonder the truth behind his letters.

Letters from a Nameless Village by Muhn Sihn is composed of more questions than answers. A man seeks meaning to his existence by running from his failures and seeking refuge in simplicity. His letters to ‘my dear fellow’ contemplate his life in the form of questions. Despite this presentation of thought, few answers or even speculations follow. I did like the following quote, however. “Everything lives at the expense of something else.”


The book can be completed within an hour, as it is only eighty-four pages. Still, I believe this time is better spent in meditation. There is no clear direction to Sihn’s characters. The book is a compilation of ramblings with no cohesive thought patterns. At the end, I was left wondering what its purpose was. Yes, the main character discovers that a simplistic way of life is more fulfilling than his previous life in the city, but the beauty of simplicity is never identified or described. The way a bird’s song is orchestrated by nature and not confined within the four walls of human design. Or the kiss of a breeze caresses the arm in comfort when most needed. The author’s main character provided no threads of connecting to the reader. I was grasping at straws.


I had hoped Letters from a Nameless Village would pull me into its simplicity, giving enlightenment where none previously existed. Instead, it left me confused and disappointed. It is a mish-mash of thought.

Reviewed by

I currently review books for ENVIE, previously known as The Writing Community Newsletter (enviemagazine.com). I am a pharmacist by trade, but my passion for books spans over forty + years (not telling actual age 😉). I have an eye for detail but seek the emotional connection with a books characters.

Synopsis

After failure in ambition and in love, a man leaves the city and settles in a nameless village, where he finds peace and meaning among its simple inhabitants. He writes a series of letters to an old friend detailing his experience, but there are flickers of madness and doubt upon the pages, leaving one to wonder the truth behind his letters.

Third day, Sixth month


My dear fellow, I cannot help but imagine you pouting as you read this letter. No doubt my sudden disappearance has vexed you, but I could no longer suffer that dismal city I once called home.

Please do reassure my mother that I am well, and that she need not worry about me. I know this must be a rather tedious, unpleasant request on my part, but I know you will indulge me.

As to my current location, all I will say is that it is a secluded village far to the east, nestled amongst some grassy knolls that I chanced upon during my escape.

And if there were ever such a place as paradise, my dear fellow, it must be here, in this nameless gathering of simple-hearted folk, singing creeks, veiled behind curtains of leaves.

Here, there is none of that predatory greed that drives men apart, and neither is there that incendiary jealousy that festers upon one’s soul. Here, I feel as if I am pleasantly lost in a dream. Lost, and not wishing to be found.

My first steps away from the incessant noise of the city and its invasive beams, I found myself alone in the woods with a lamp, an isolated beacon of light in the untamed shadows framed by a greater darkness.

One that was as vibrant and serene as the ocean beneath a clear night sky.

It was here, my good fellow, that I felt as if I had found myself. Not amongst the crowds of the city, but here, lost (and thus free!) amongst the silent trees.

The darkness is but a door. How fitting that it opens and closes in all directions!     

And let me ask you. What is fame, wealth, reputation, these phantoms that consume a human soul?

They are nothing but props to bolster one’s failing happiness and vanity.

You may think that my sudden departure is just a caprice, a phase of the moment, but what of it? So, too, is existence and all of its facets. And I would sooner choose an uncertain bliss than that continuous torture I once called life.

But I have faith, my dear fellow, faith in that vibrant, serene darkness, so congruous to the void that separates the stars.

If you care to know, I am still working on my poems, but I have lost much of that unhealthy obsession that you so accurately diagnosed.

These days, I write with freshness and ease, much like that first breath of cool air still dewy from the traces of dawn. I believe this to be the effect of not taking my work so seriously. Whereas before, my work seemed to drain me of my very sanity, these days, I find it therapeutic and rejuvenating.

Indeed, I find everything very serene and lighthearted, as if all my insecurities and woes have perspired during my heavy-footed journey here. I breathe more freely. My head is not so muddled with idle doubts and active boredom.

This may seem terribly silly to you, but think for a moment, my good fellow. How superfluous the luxury of the city, its artificial conventions and its false notions of progress, where everything is measured by precious metals and legal tender!

Only imagine all the peace of mind, the wealth of nature, so readily available, if only we could keep ourselves from being ensnared by the callous, misguided notion of modernity!

They speak of the progress of technology, of science, of knowledge, but what of the progress of the human soul? My dear fellow, I could no longer bear to live in such a city, to be measured and subjected to their standards. I felt as if I were slowly dying, instead of living.

The progress of Magnastu, the modern society, is measured only by vanity and its incremental interests. Whereas here, in this nameless village (referenced only by its proximity to a nearby river and a temperate forest), progress is measured by something similarly nameless.

Dare I call it compassion? The word seems so abused by insincere tongues and cheap lips.

Would you believe it? Only imagine, instead of working for minted coins and printed bills, you worked for compassion! Working not to fill your vaults with sparkling jewels, but to fill your soul with a nameless treasure. Yes, such is the way of life to which I commit my faith.

Only how curiously, conspicuously thin the border between vanity and compassion is! Just as angels and devils are separated only by their desires, so it is with vanity and compassion, the looming dark shadow of the human soul in comparison to the actual thing. How strange that the shadow is sometimes more real than the object that casts it, how it seems to engulf the very object that defines its boundaries.

I am sure you remember my once saying that the human being exists only to enjoy what it destroys. That we are beasts manacled to hammers. I am developing an alternative, though not a mutually exclusive, view on the matter.

Living with these simple-hearted villagers that live their lives as distinct and natural as the four seasons, I feel now as if we live to build our own prisons (having been born into one built by others), to dictate the meaningful terms of our existence within its floors, walls, and ceiling, aligning our iron grates towards what is forbidden.

Yes, to be free to build our own prisons and destroy them at will! I am convinced that the human being needs no other liberty than this. Anything less is what creates that compressed division known as Magnastu, where it is possible to be surrounded by thousands, and one still feels loveless and lonely, trapped and confused, whilst the soul wanders aimlessly as if in a maze without exits.

I am filled with such musings these days, my friend, and I am anxious to hear your thoughts. Some days, I feel like a sage embarked on a quest of enlightenment. And on just as many days, I feel like a lunatic in the woods, laughing at the clouds.

Just so, I would have it no other way.

I do not know when this letter will reach you, but I have confidence that you will treat the courier well and write back a timely response.

How dearly I wish I could speak to you in person! If only you could enjoy this profound wealth that words fail to name.

About the author

I write as consolation for my inability to live as I believe. Writing is both a prison and an escape. I serve penance with words. It is also the shell within which I hide from the world. view profile

Published on September 06, 2019

Published by

20000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by

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