By now, anyone closely following Melville Jacoby's story knows a little bit about Chan Ka Yik. Last week, a few members of my family and I met Chan's daughters for something of a reunion between our two families. As I've already described, that was itself was a lovely experience. But Chan was not Mel's only friend in China, nor was he the only Chinese man Mel met who later moved to the United States. My visit to Palo Alto also stirred up a fantastic coincidence. This is the sort of thing that can provide a completely different glimpse three quarters of a century in the past. Click the link to read about that coincidence, and to hear the fantastic discovery I made as a result of that visit.
I was digging through the collection of materials I have at my place related to Melville Jacoby and found a photocopy of a lovely letter written to Mel 74 years ago today. The note was sent by Chan Ka Yik, one of Mel's best friends. The two were roommates at Lingnan University in Canton (now Guangzhou) while Mel was an exchange student there. The letter responds to an earlier mailing Mel had sent. It describes Chan's fondness for his roommate, and, in many ways, is the sort of letter anyone might send to catch up with an old friend. But these greetings are described against a backdrop of war. Though calm seemed to have returned when Chan wrote the letter, it was clearly still a presence.