Review: The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sci-Fi Indonesia group in Goodreads chose Ted Chiang’s works for buddy read this month. So far Ted Chiang has only written short stories or novelettes. The group chose 3 of them and this one here is not in the list. Those 3 are The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gates, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, and Stories of Your Life and Others (which will be coming to theater soon). I only have read Merchant and Lifecycle so far because both are available in the wonderful world of internet. Stories is still on the way to my shelf.

And I can’t help it, I’m hooked, I’m thirsty for more Ted Chiang’s works so I find anything I can find fast. The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling is available on Subterranean Online.

This story is about how how human keep history, the truth of their story. It takes place in two periods with quite some years between them.

One in far (?) future where mankind have managed to invent a device to wear and capture every seconds of our life with feature to search and view past digital memories, called Remem (me: because you will always “remember” everything). One in the opposite direction of time, where a young man named Jijingi from an African tribe, the Tiv tribe, learned to read and write for the first time from their fellow human from Europe.

Things I remember from The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling:

    • Ted Chiang’s works reminds me of Isaac Asimov a bit. That bit is that both of them have one clear topic/idea and then present it from various points of view in such a satisfying way.
    • I never thought about how it is to learn to read. I understand the frustration of not being able to read in other languages but I don’t really remember the transition from being illiterate to being able to recognize the alphabets and later understand words, sentences, and stories. My childhood amnesia robs me of the chance to hold dear that memory. But Ted Chiang offers it in the story of a Tiv young man who got curious in the paper and the “drawing” in it and had the missionary teach him to read and write.
    • What makes me really want to remember how it was like when learning to read/write is when reading about Jijingi slowly understanding about the usage of space. How he at first didn’t get why we separate words with space because we surely don’t stop speaking for each words when speaking.
    • Also, when he first wondered why Moseby, the missionary, needed to write down his preach, why not just talk? I never question that. As far as I can remember, writing down what we want to say before we say it (especially in important events like presentation and such) is clearly useful.
    • But that brings me to the other story. If I have a chance to use Remem and play the video of my younger years, will I find different truth? Will I actually see myself ever ask a friend or a teacher about why it’s good to write before speaking? I say most certainly not! I’m quite sure.
    • The Dad in the other story also has that same level of certainty. It is a fact for him that her daughter once accused him as the reason the Mom left. Guess what he found when he played with Remem? The truth, of course.
    • By the time I read that part, I feel like I’m forced to stop and notice the title. Well, of course. Then, comes this quote:
On the one side are the truths of fact, on the other the truth of the writer’s feeling, and where the two coincide cannot be decided by any outside authority in advance.
  • And when I start admiring the usefulness of Remem and, exactly like the Dad, push down my skepticism and favor one truth over the other, the Tiv way surfaces and argues differently. And I can’t, I can’t say that they are wrong.
Our language has two words for what in your language is called ‘true.’ There is what’s right, mimi, and what’s precise, vough. In a dispute the principals say what they consider right; they speak mimi. The witnesses, however, are sworn to say precisely what happened; they speak vough. When Sabe has heard what happened can he decide what action is mimi for everyone.
  • I don’t believe that this is a novella! It’s so rich! I read others commented that Ted Chiang’s ideas are so awesome that they don’t care about plot or character and that’s also the reason he hasn’t produced any writing longer than novella (yet). Yes, I guess that’s true.
  • I enjoy the Merchant, I enjoy Lifecycle but this one is my favorite so far.

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