Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Needless to say, I have drawn a very grim looking catfish on a bicycle.
Catfish is a staple food in the Vietnamese diet, and it is reflective to some degree of the identity ascribed to An by the meals he eats while in Saigon: that of the Viet-kieu. To supersede, the image is linked to the "magic pot" of catfish given to An by his mother in times of great uncertainty, and it seems noteworthy that in Vietnamese culture the catfish is symbolic of sustenance and the capacity to survive. In the memoir itself, while the catfish signifies the preceding, it also represents transformation. The catfish swims along murky floors and nourishes itself upon the excrement of people, much in the same way Andrew moves along the grime and poverty of Vietnam, ingesting it (both physically and mentally) and transforming it within himself. There are several ironic facets of the illustration. The roots sprouting from the tires allude to An's feelings of rootlessness. It seems ill-fitting then that they be attached to this vessel of freedom, but that is the point, and each tire represents Vietnam and America respectively. The catfish is also cycling upon water, and he appears malaise because he has begun to realize this: that no matter how vigorously he pedals, he cannot escape that ocean of memory, nor the weight of Vietnamese diaspora.