Saturday, October 28, 2006

Para viver uma viagem sem fim

Friday evening gave a talk at Meiji for a very general audience. The average age was probably in the sixties. But it was enjoyable. Attendance was not bad. A little less than a hundred, I think. My talk was titled: To Live a Journey with No End. It was tha last of the weekly series with four speakers around the theme of "Why Do We Go On Travelling?"

Here is the outline of my talk:

1. Introduction
-Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)
-Ukiya Tojiro (1942-1965)
-Miyamoto Tsuneichi (1907-1981)

2. Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989)

3. J.M.G. Le Clezio (1940-)

4. On "World Photography"
-Yann-Arthus Bertrand (1946-)
-Sebastiao Salgado (1944-)
-Uwe Ommer (1943-)

5. On My Own "Travel Writing"
-The Chinese Tahiti (1992)
-The Aomori Note (2006)

Time being limited to 120 minutes with 15 minutes of Q & As, I couldn't get to the part 5. But in general it was well organized and I kept time as was expected.

For Chatwin and Le Clezio I owe them both a full-length study, respectively.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Conversion, of a sort

C'est depuis ce jour-là que je n'ai plus de projets... Que je vois ça et là des objets de souci, mais sans me soucier... Et que j'ai renoncé à faire de mon plein gré le moindre bruit sur la terre... Tout va de soi... Mon temps se passe entre ce qui me vient et ce qui m'arrive. (Maurice Clavel)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bringing Up a Baby

My friend Kan Nozaki's book Akachan Kyoiku (titled after the American film Bringing Up A Baby) received this year's Kodansha Prize for Essays along with Kazuya Fukuda. It's a lovely book telling the days of a middle-aged French lit prof with his new born son... full of joy, laughter, and discovery.

Not knowing how to congratulate him, I wrote three haikus that I sent him by e-mail. Here they are (in the original):

Infant Joy! 躍り秘めたる 土ふまず

この掌に降りておいで かかとの光

葉脈と指 いのちの脈絡 みどりご力(りょく)

Not bad, eh? Congratulations to Kan! (Whose name literally means JOY.)

Hispania etc.

On Saturday I was on a panel at the Association for Hispania Studies' annual conference, held at Doshisha U in Kyoto. The subject of the panel was multilingualism and literature, for which Tadashi Wakashima (translator of Nabokov's and Cabrera Infante's works in English) and myself.

Prof. Wakashima was a very nice guy exuding with intelligence. He has his B.A. in math and he then turned to the study of American lit after reading Richard Wright's Native Son. He's never been to the mainland US. AWESOME. His talk, largely autobiographical, was so interesting and full of fun. I talked on Edouard Glissant's second novel (1964), Le quatrieme siecle. There were various points that I didn't understand, but I put together ideas around the themes of landscape, naming, and language (including multilingualism).

Fumihiko Takemura (translator of Octavio Paz, among others) and Takaatsu Yanagihara (a specialist of Alejo Carpentier) joined us as commentators. The session was chaired by Kenji Matsumoto, and the conference was organized by Kenji Inamoto. My thanks to all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The loom of languages, poems

Yesterday I went to Waseda for the first time in some years. I liked its college-town atmosphere. There was an open-air used-book market going on, but didn't have time for that. I went for an open dialogue between two poets, Gozo Yoshimasu and Ryoko Sekiguchi, hosted by Jun'ichi Konuma.

The talk was around their new book of collaboration: Hata (The Loom). It's based on their correspondences around some fundamental issues of poetics. Very stimulating. When you think of the loom the image of the shuttle also comes to mind. It's just like that, that quasi-eternal aller-retour of words, ideas, and images, that make the unexpected surface.

Listening to the two master poets, I was deeply ashamed of my being not serious enough about the business of poetry. WHAT AM I DOING HERE? Konuma also is going to publish his new collection of poetry (his fourth and the first in 12 years or so) .

Got to do something about my writing life.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kant, 72 times and still

Heard a good bit of story about Eugen Heligel (1884-1955), the German pholosopher who lived and taught in Japan between 1924 and 1929 or so. He taught philosophy at Tohoku U (in Sendai).

When asked by students "How many times have you read Kant's Critique of the Pure Reason?" he answered: 72 times, and I still don't understand. I am now reading it for the 73rd times.

How encouraging! Yes, the only way to break through the shell of older understanding is to keep re-reading a work infinitely.

Keep this in mind.