Judith Huang




  • an excerpt from Sofia and the Utopia Machine


an excerpt from Sofia and the Utopia Machine

TO: Sofia

From: isaac iskandar

Subject: How can Singapore remain competitive in the 22nd century?

Dear Sofia,

Ever since I saw your holosheets and met you, however briefly, I have been doing a lot of deep thinking. Something about you just brings that out in me.

Why are we filled with longing for the things we cannot have? Why is it that beyond the vision of every statesman and philosopher is that shimmering something, blinking in the corner of his eye?

There is something that haunts our dreams. There is something that drives us, that racks our sleep with discontent. We long for the high, the beyond, the sublime.

It is a lover, it is a homeland, a childhood, a future. Wherever we locate this thing, in thing or person or land or time, it is beyond our reach–eternally unattainable, or insistent, unending longing.

In this place the moon shines brighter, the laughter is more innocent, the caresses are softer, the knowledge deeper. It resonates with something within us. It fits the shape of the missing puzzle piece. It is obsession and pain and desire. It is a self-lacerating wound, a maw, aching to be filled. 

You glimpse it in the mundane and in the sublime. It stares at you from pop-ads-the sheet washed whiter than before, the woman more beautiful than anything on earth. It stares at you from the height of art, its beauty distorted, its bleeding hands held out to you from behind the glass pane. 

Everywhere you turn you see it, and everywhere you turn you miss it. Everywhere there is beauty you clutch at it, only to see it fall like sand through your fingers.

It is un-graspable, unknowable, unknown. It is an old flame, an old song, an old country rising like a spectre from the grave –it is utopia, it is Eden, it is heaven, it is paradise. It is a chimera, a protean thing, shifting and turning into something else the moment you clutch at it.

© Epigram Books

by Judith Huang
from Sofia and the Utopia Machine (2018)
published by Epigram Books