"In late 1997 I returned to visit my village after many years. I was struck by not seeing anyone, except an old man whose face showed the traces of centuries-long solitude. Life was gone. Not a child's voice to be heard, nor the voices you can always hear in the Orient. I was in an empty place, where I remem- bered every stone, every tree, every stream and every wall. As I walked the streets, the past flooded my consciousness."