Sisyphe bookstore is a cool vibrant bookstore in downtown Chongqing. There are lots of mostly young people hanging out there browsing for books and working at the many study areas available. Reminded me a bit of the ill fated Borders Bookshop.

Sisyphe describes itself as a humanities books holding “cultural spiritual ideals”. The name comes from Sisyphus of Greek Mythology who was punished for his deceitfulness and had to push a boulder uphill forever. The bookstore took this pushing as freedom of choice and eternal meaning. I’m not so sure about that interpretation myself, that aside the bookstore was a very hip and happening place.

They held regular events that were mainly lectures. I attended one before doing my own and they were talking about Kew Gardens in London the audience listening attentively. When my time came I talked a little of my various ensembles then played excerpts from Peacock Angell, Surge Saxophones and Surge Big Band moving from the accessible to the pure noise. Then we had questions which were all very deep. I had sort of expected things like “What sort of music will you compose in Chongqing?” etc but instead I got “Does your music aim for the heavens?”, “What instrument represents our city?” and “How do musicians of different styles bond together?”. There was no shortage of questions either compared to those awkward lectures that when the talker is finished a room of bored faces have nothing to say. I did my best to answer intelligently.

In the second half I sang a few songs and got into more comfortable territory of creating a piece of music with everyone there despite having only four instruments amongst about 100 people. The musicians laid a groove whilst everyone else made vocal noises, shuffled feet, clapped hands and engaged their mobile phones on cue. A brave solo singer volunteered and within 15 minutes we had a piece.  A bit of fun and short dissemination of the sort of creativity I believe Britain excels in.

5 thoughts on “Sisyphe bookstore

  1. This sounds like a really great event. Sid, I’m sure you gave them a very enriching experience. I love the question Does your Music aim for the Heavens — that really expresses the idealistic side of Chinese youth in spite of all the modern materialism. It’s also interesting that the bookshop says it is trying to push to the limit: it would be interesting to know if their stock is wider, and seeks to approach “difficult” areas. I think Sisyphus is quite a subtle choice of name: it implies not only the willingness to strive for freedom of expression, but the awareness that under present circumstances, the stone will nevertheless roll back!

  2. Ahhh… thanks John, you are so very in tune. I hope to visit the bookshop again so will try and gather more information. I guess I am presently pushing the stone myself. Look forward to discussing further when home.

  3. Take your cue from Camus on the Sisyphusean punishment and keep finding freedom in the struggle with that stone mate!

    Great to read these ongoing posts, and look forward to hearing all about it in person when you’re back in Birmingham again.

    All best

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