Thursday, December 27, 2007

Laçan! Qui c'est?

I am looking at Houston Baker, Jr.'s very interesting I Don't Hate the South (2007). And here it goes:

In a sense, language as the gateway of our identity is like a carnival hall of mirrors. There is, thus, always a gap, a lack, an unconquerable divide that the black writer Richard Wright captures in the title of one of his better known poems: "Between the World and Me."
When we fall into language (which Laçan [sic] defines as patriarchal, causing scholars like Gilles Deleuze, Felix [sic] Guattari, and Judith Butler to dissent from his thesis), we join the world. But we lose our whole(ness). We are always attempting, according to Laçan [sic], to fill the "hole in the self" that is our identity formation. (71)

The whole phrase between ( ) can be erased. And Lacan, Félix, rather. A little more attention, editors at Oxford UP!

But this image of language being "a carnival hall of mirrors" is so nice.

Verticality and Creole languages

In a creole language is reflected verticality of a colonial society. Here is what Le Clézio says on the subject:

En créole mauricien, voler, c'est "faire coquin"; regarder, c'est "guetter"; chercher, c'est "rôder"; le maître, c'est "grand moune". / Dans l'espagnol criollo du Mexique, la forme de politesse c'est "Mande usted?" (Que commendez-vous?)

(Raga, 125)

Quite illuminating!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Centenaries in 2008

The year 2008 will mark centenaries for (at least) two very important American writers: William Saroyan and Richard Wright. I'd like to do something for them in late summer.

William Saroyan was born on August 31, 1908 and died on May 18, 1981.
Richard Wright was born on September 4, 1908 and died on November 28, 1960.

Both of them distinctively American, in the fullest sense of the word.

Friends, leave your schedules open on these dates in 2008.

A sceptic traveller

John Steinbeck really have been one of my fundamental authors. It is he who first seduced me to this amorphous, unrealiable, and yet very REAL totality that is America. And among his books I still like Travels with Charley better than any other.

His simple, straightforward style is so precious! Let me quote this paragraph alone to make my point:

On the long journey doubts were often my companions. I've always admired those reporters who can descend on an area, talk to key people, ask key questions, take samplings of opinions, and then set down an orderly report very like a road map. I envy this technique and at the same time do not trust it as a mirror of reality. I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style. In literary criticism the critic has no choice but to make over the victim of his attention into something the size and shape of himself. (76)

Ordinary? I'd say honest. And very much to the point.

Then a little further:

[O]ur morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world. (77)

Such is the secret (an open one) of travel writing!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sim, senhor

Here is a great quote from Kwame Appiah:

"Cultural purity is an oxymoron."


Monday, December 17, 2007

Richard Burton, the Language aficionado

Here is what Kwame Appiah writes about Sir Richard Francis Burton:

Born in 1821, he traveled, as a child, with his family in Europe, and spent time getting to know the Romany people; his English contemporaries liked to say that he had acquired some of the Gypsy's wandering ways. He learned modern Greek in Marseilles and French and Italian, including the Neapolitan dialect, as his family moved between the British expatriate communities of France and Italy; and he arrived at Oxford knowing Béarnais--a language intermediate between French and Spanish--and (like every other student in those days) classical Greek and Latin as well.

(Cosmopolitanism, 1-2)

Isn't this fascinating! I especially like the "Béarnais" part...

Listening to Coetzee's voice

J.M. Coetzee gave a reading tonight (17 Dec) from his Diary of a Bad Year, at the U of Tokyo (Komaba). A Great voice and great attitude. Especially impressive were the scenes from the Egyptian abattoir and the essay-like part on Dostoievski.

The UK edition has a great photograph of a crow on its dust jacket; the Australian edition somebody had boasted a totally different look.

And Coetzee was smiling, despite the reputation of somebody who never smiles.

The book originally had three voices, so I am told. Of which the author picked up two for reading; that's his mise en scène. The book sounded very interesting. I hope to read it through during the vacances de noël.

Friday, December 14, 2007

2008, the Year of the Antilles-Glissant

Last night we had a little get together for our Glissant-year-to-be. I mean, we renewed our determination to finish translating Edouard Glissant's major works by his 80th birth day in September 2008.

We are:

Moriyuki Hoshino, Masanori Tsukamoto, and myself, who will be working as a team on Le discours antillais.
Myself, who will be translating Le quatrième siècle.
Takayuki Nakamura, who is in charge of Faulkner, Mississippi.

The editor is Tetsuro Maruyama of Inscript.

Both Moriyuki and Masanori are my most respected friends in the field (French-language lit) and talking with them I get infinite numbers of new ideas popping up constantly out of the conversation. It's so uplifting. But we mostly talked about rock music in the 1970s!

It's amazinfg how we share the same music over years.

Probably the most important social function of music is this: creating the communal space of baseless solidarity (if you know what I mean).

But it was fun, and Takayuki had one too many glass of grappa. No wonder, it's 30 to 60 degrees high in alcohol!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Girl in the Pocket?

My 2003 translation of Aimee Bender's fantastic The Girl in the Flammable Skirt is now reissued as a pocket book (bunko) by Kadokawa Shoten. It will be on sale on the 22nd this month!

On this occasion I thoroughly revised the translation. So it's really a brand new work.

Those of you who read Japanese, please take a look! My translation of her second collection of short stories, Willful Creatures, will be out in February 2008. It's great and amazing to see Aimee getting so popular in Japan.

My prediction is that with in a couple of years American lit majors in Japan will begin writing their honors on Aimee and her work. Of course, I don't mean it means anything per se. What matters is that her work creates resonances in this language, and I am happy to have played a little part in the process...

And I am all the more convinced that she is a very fine writer!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Getting ready to start anew

Just a thought on the approaching new year...NEW...lovely.

But there is no such thing. Recurrence of the past is inevitable and the involuntary repetition of what once was but a glimpse is the only door to a new stage of perception.

Next year probably I will revise all that I have written around 1990 concerning the American West; having come to a conclusion that endless footnoting is not only okay but necessary. A thematic never really exhausts itself in poetics.

I take up, for example, my old copy of Gary Snyder's MYTHS & TEXTS and suddenly realize that I HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK. I mean, so much has been eluding me, and still does.

To look at lines like:

San Francisco, "Mulberry Harbor"
eating the speckled sea-bird eggs
of the Farallones

And I didn't even know what he was talking about untill this past summer when I chanced upon his writing on Petaluma and the town's chicken industry.

Illumination partout.

At one point in life one feels one needs urgently to see old friends. And when they are DEAD one can only see old-friends-as-paper-beings. On the other hand, poets and novelists alike are DEAD the moment their texts take shapes (if provisionary).

Hence the convenience--for the soul--of books as surrogate friends.

So my resolution (already!) for the new year would be:

"Hello, old friends!"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Decembering, dis-membering

Boy oh boy. Talk about being hectic.

After our symposium on digital content studies on 2 Dec at the Academy Hall, Meiji U, things are actually getting WORSE for me. I have essays to finish, one on Gary Snyder and the other on Amos Tutuola, what a combination indeed. Then my long-due Artaud translation is just a thousand suns to explode at any moment, and my trouble-shooting at work has no end... tant pis, it pisses me off, me oh my oh.


By chance I met Sae, my editor, at the station this morning and we rode together as far as Shinjuku. As we are in the very process of working together on my Aimee Bender translation we are in sync like no other two persons on the planet and I told her my new-year's-resolution-to-be for the year 2008... and she knew exactly what I meant.

My life will be renovated!

My ambition has always been that of switching the language. Not for the sake of bogus patricide nor matricide, nor inevitable suicide, but for the sake of experimenting with my LIFE. How Artaudian, pal.

In order to reach a new stage of planetary expression I will have to shift into whatever language there is BUT my parents' native tongue. Crazy? Yeah, yeah.

We are already counting down to 2008. And 12 more days to go before I hit the road to Osaka to join a panel in the Association for the Study of English Lit conference...

Adieu la prochaine!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sometimes a great weekend

On Saturday morning we had our digital content studies group study session. It's monthly, started in May, and this november session was the seventh of the series. Our guest speaker this time was Kei Hirakura, an art and film critic fresh out of his Ph.D. program at the U of Tokyo, and it was so fresh and exhilarating. I loved it. He analysed two post-2001 films: Steven Spielberg's Minority Report and Tony Scott's Déjà vu. Both are taken as stories focusing on the image-simulacra and their doubling function in relation to reality-as-we-share-it. Quite interesting.

Then in the afternoon, we had our seventh monthly session of the World Cinema study group that I and Keisuke Dan initiated. This time the host(ess) was Miyako Otsuji and she showed us her favourite filmmaker Luis Buñuel's American film (what rarity indeed) Robinson Crusoe. The strangeness of Robinsonade was multiplied by Don Luis's weird imagination. Altogether an enjoyable film, yet very MAD.

And on Sunday, the first day of winter in this part of the world... we had our first "kogarashi" the northen gust that's supposed to blow away brown and yellow leaves off the trees. But it was a beautiful day. There was this New Zealand Paradise Week 2007 going on at Roppongi Hills and we went to listen to a girl singer, half-Japanese half-Kiwi, that I had discovered a couple of weeks before. Her name is Kat McDowell. She has a great voice, a great feel, a pretty face and a good general attitude. As long as she is offered good songs she will surely make it as a Tokyo-based bilingual singer. My daughter was instantly fascinated!

And so my weekend is now over and I've got to resume my work, as hard as Milton, or Karl Popper (who worked 360 days a year from dawn to midnight and who rewrote his Open Society thirty times...).

My days are limited. Sing a hymn.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lose your selves

With our cosmopolitanism panel in Osaka approaching (within two months) I am beginning to feel uncomfortable... and I take up Wylie Sypher's Loss of the Self (1964). At well past midnight.

A seminal work. Within only only a page appear names such as Bowles, Hemingway, and Durrell. Then on the next here comes Gide, the perennial, and this is what I note down tonight:

The whole question of sincerity vexed Gide, since he was inclined to revise himself every moment, and nothing was more different from himself than himself. This is Montaigne's old renaissance theme of the diversity of the self; but Gide was interested in nothing except what was irregular. (64)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Voices from Afar

I received my copy of the collection of essays on Yoko Tawada: Voices from Everywhere (Doug Slaymaker, ed., Lexington Books, 2007). It looks very nice! And I am happy to see my own essay (Translation, Exophony, Omniphony) quoted by Marjorie Perloff, who wrote the foreword to this volume. She is of course one of the greatest critics writing on poetry today.

Here is from the back of the book (quoted from the foreword) by Prof. Perloff:

"In the decade to come--and here this distinguished collection of essays will surely be instrumental--Tawada's poetry, plays, and her remarkable essays on language and literature, especially her Tübingen lectures called Verwandlungen, are poised for wide dissemination in the English-speaking world. For Tawada is not just another accomplished 'foreign' author; she is perhaps the leading practitioner today of what we might call...exophonic writing--which is to say, writing in a second language, a language always other from one's own."

Thank you Doug for your editing efforts!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Only once it serves...

La poésie écrite vaut une fois et ensuite qu'on la détruise.

---Antonin Artaud

Sunday, September 30, 2007


AGENDARS is the title of my on-going poetic project.

The basic unit is a poem of 16 lines (4*4).
I plan to publish about 64 (4*4*4) pieces per year.
When they reach the number of 256 (4*4*4*4), I will make a book of them.
And eventually in all they will make four books, a total of 1024 (4*4*4*4*4) pieces.
It will probably take 16 years to finish this, thus ending in 2024 (I'll be 66).

So far I have submitted 6 pieces to Tamaya (to be published later this year) and 6 to Ahunruparu Tsushin (of which 3 are already published in its No.2).

This will be my work as a poet, and after that I'll make a selection of 256 out of 1024 to make the definitive, single book AGENDARS.

This gives a good reason to survive until 2024, at any cost!


With much hesitation of the past few weeks, cold rain came, finally, bringing with it the long-awaited autumn, cool, soothing, and beautiful in its feel. Congratulations to us all!

This is the loveliest season, the most-promised, the most to-be-fruitful.

The summer has been almost unbearable. But not to be complained. The autumn will be wet. Again, not to be complained. I embrace this time and I go back to my writing.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

On Yoko Tawada

My friend Doug Slaymaker edited a collection of essays on Yoko Tawada: Voices from Everywhere. I contributed a piece. It's published today (Sep. 28) from Lexington Books.^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=073912272X

For those of you who are interested in either her German writings or Japanese writings, or both, please take a look.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Encountering a paragraph

With a strange truth in it; it may not be my truth, but a truth nevertheless. Here is one:

I was about seventeen and made lonely and strange by that Pacific Northwest of so many years ago, that dark, rainy land of 1952. I'm thirty-one now and I still can't figure out what I meant by living the way I did in those days.

(Richard Brautigan, "1/3, 1/3, 1/3")

Monday, September 17, 2007

Taking a subway across the Charles

Hugh Kenner's vivacity often stems from his use of anecdotes. Here is an example:

Buckminster Fuller reminds us how for generations it had taken Harvard students all day to visit Boston from Cambridge via Watertown Bridge. The subway that was opened in 1913 promptly cut a leisurely day to seven minutes. That had happened in Fuller's freshman year, and it led him, he says, to speculations about space-time acceleration and the finite velocity of light. (The Mechanic Muse, 27)

Now, this sticks to one's memory. Easily. A point to be emulated.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Technology and Modernism

Here is what Hugh Kenner says in The Mechanic Muse (1987):

X-rays (1895) made plausible transparent planes of matter (Picasso), the wireless superimposed the voices of twenty countries (Finnegans Wake), newsreel quick-cutting helped prompt The Waste Land.

Joyce in the land of omniphony...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Yet another 49er

One's birthday is always a good point to revise one's life. Blaise Cendrars's birthday is September 1, Antonin Artaud's September 4, and Maurice Blanchot's September 7, I think. In between I have mine on the 3rd. A Virgo, like anybody from Borges and Goethe to Loren Eiseley and Michel Butor, for example. This is the company I belong with. And I have been feeling that for the last twenty years and more.

At 49 going on 50, I have to be serious about what to do for the rest of my life. I envision a decade of professional life ahead of me. There are a bunch and bundle of my past "future projects" lying about. Now, what?

In a decade to come I'll write only about four books, realistically. I'll translate about four. I'll give about 10 academic papers, one per year. The rest is journalism. Can't do much, eh?

Again it's a question of NOT TO DO SUCH AND SUCH. I have always been very weak in this respect.

Lachez tout, amigo. What you write matters. But not it's quantity. Nor it's popularity. What matters is its soul. And soul is only expressed as attitude.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sylvie Germain

My interview with Sylvie Germain along with my translation of her four short pieces now appeared in Subaru. The four short pieces of her philosophical meditations are so neat! They are: Bibliocosmos, Le vrai lieu est ailleurs, L'infante, Spirale des sens. Check it out to have a look at her stunning imagination...

「シルヴィー・ジェルマン 日蝕から砂漠まで」(「すばる」2007年10月号、 pp.266-282)

Friday, August 17, 2007

This book is RRRREALLY good!

The ABC bookstore has compiled a booklet for its annual book festival. This year, the general theme is "Waterscape."

I was asked to recommend a title along with a little more than 150 others. You can pick up a copy of it this week, for free (sure).

My pick was Josephy Brodsky's Watermark. There is another person, Jun Aoki, who has chosen this same book.

The booklet reminds me of many titles that I haven't had a chance to lay my hands on. It's good, occasionally, to join such a project! Thanks to my friend Hiroe Ogawa...

「水景」ABC Bookfes 2007, konohonhahontouniii

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Some of my recent writings of no importance: reading journals in Subaru and an essay in Gengo.

「読書日録」 (「すばる」2007年8月号、pp.322-323)
「読書日録」 (「すばる」2007年9月号、pp.320-321)
「クレオールな存在、ピジンな生き方」 (「言語」2007年9月号、pp.60-67)

Already half of August has passed. No goal in sight. With the temperature constantly rising to 37 degrees, nothing much can be expected. But alas, un montón de trabajo...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


How much I love Cioran, you'll never know. And then Cioran, he simply doesn't care. (He's dead, too.)

After another semester of feeling my inaptitude for the profession of TEACHING, I go back to Cioran and I am consoled. Here are only two fragments from De l'inconvénient d'être né:

Toute ma vie j'aurai vécu avec le sentiment d'avoir été éloigné de mon véritable lieu. Si l'expression "exil métaphysique" n'avait aucun sens, mon existence à elle seule lui en prêterait un. (98)

Le paradis était l'endroit où l'on savait tout mais où l'on n'expliquait rien. L'univers d'avant le péché, d'avant le COMMENTAIRE... (193)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Tonight I saw a cicada coming out of her former self into a full-grown body, white in the dark, naked, and almost luminous. Into the wild.

This is in the city, in our dirty old neighborhood, where nothing sings, nothing shines, nothing seems to be alive. But then the cicada, purely alive, trying to get out of the shell, trying to be born, at 23 o'clock, alll alone, desperately serious, frighteningly joyful.

As if to designate me as her sole spectator.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Yoshiharas

My short piece on the Yoshihara family's six-generation saga appeared on a Niigata newspaper. Based in Shibata, they have been running a photography studio for well over a century--the epoch that covers the whole of Japan's modernity.

Now the studio is run by Yukihiro. Formerly very active as a media artist on the Tokyo-NYC axis, he decides to take over his family business after September 11, 2001. Going back to his terre natale and to the work of collective, anonymous memory.
The first result is s series of old photographs compiled from the studio's familial archive.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Il y a cent ans...

July already. Good grief. The first half of the year 2007 has passed. Hard to believe.

Here is what Gide wrote in his journal on 2 Feb 1907:

Ce matin, lettre de Claudel; lettre pleine d'une colère sacrée, contre l'époque, contre Gourmont, Rousseau, Kant, Renan... Colère sainte sans doute, mais colère tout de même, et douleureusement à mon esprit autant que l'aboiement d'un chien à mon oreille. Je ne puis supporter cela et me bouche aussitôt l'oreille. Mais j'entends tout de même et j'ai peine ensuite à me remettre au travail.

Claudel, Gide. It would be interesting to see two forms of sensibility (catholic, protestant) in them, but without generalizing too much. Claudel always seems to me to be Spanish, so to speak. Totalisant, passionant, ardent, épuisant.

Friday, June 15, 2007

When dogs come together

I had a moment of hallucination today walking my puppy (well, no more, as she is almost 10 months old). All the dogs from my boyhood came back to me, running, trying to join us, with a sheer look of delight on their faces. Toby, my bulldog, Lou, my dalmatian, but also Rock the German Shepard and Bonnie the Akita (to me they were simply too big)... I was struck.

Mometarily I was filled with a sense of reliance, confidence, and I was totally in tune with the world around me.

That's what keeping a dog is all about. A dog is a messenger, Hermes-like, between your miserable SELF and the world-as-it-is. It can save you. It always stands on your side.

Happy Bloomsday

And again it's Bloomsday... 103th since 1904, the original.

I remember vividly our event in Okinawa in 2003, when we read aloud Ulysses in more than a dozen different languages... Today it seems they are holding a similar event in Sapporo. I wish I could go!

Instead I'll be drinking a pint of Guiness, chez moi, sozinho com o meu cachorrinho.

Saying: Here's to you, Jim, Jimmy, James, my master impeccable!

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Here is what Werner Herzog remembers about Chatwin (from Nicholas Shakespeare's biography):

"He said: 'Werner, I'm dying.' And I said, 'Yes, I am aware of that.' And then he said: 'You must carry my rucksack, you are the one who must carry it.' And I said: 'Yes, I will proudly do that.' And I have his rucksack and it's such a dear thing to me. Let's say if my house was on fire, I would throw my children out of the window, but of all my belongings it would be the rucksack that I would save." (558)

We are discussing Herzog's COBRA VERDE (d'apres Chatwin's The Viceroy of Ouidah) tomorrow at the first meeting of the World Cinema Study Group.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Brodsky Revisited

The ABC bookstore has again asked me to name a title for its summer book festival. Thank you very much. The topic this year is "water scenery".

Without much hesitation, I chose Joseph Brodsky' s Watermark. The book is translated into Japanese by the late Hisao Kanaseki. The translator of Gertrude Stein, Gary Snyder, and Native Amnerican poetry, Kanaseki must have made a great interlocutor for me... but alas, without our meeting each other, he left this planet.

Brodsky is as good as ever. What a prose.

There is something in me, I suppose, that always respects the physical side of human utterance, regardless of the content; the very movement of someone's lips is more essential than what moves them. (72-73)

I have always admired his prose written (from the scratch) in English.

But then, this is the first time I noticed that his family name reflects a "sky", a broad sky, as if the name itself was the surface of the water... and both the water and the sky curiously resembling the quiet graveyard.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Master is Always Elsewhere.

Voici ce que Sylvie Germain écrit en matière de maître:

Le Maître est toujours ailleurs.
(Les échos du silence, 40)

Quelle phrase complète! Il n'y a rien à ajouter. On cherche, on se déplace, on est en mouvement perpetuel pour trouver ce qu'on cherche via une figure incertaine du maître... qu'on ne peut jamais rencontrer. Par définition. Il n'est pas là qu'on croit qu'il est. Cette inaccessibilité est constituante d'un maître.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

My reading journal

Starting with the latest issue, I am writing my reading journal in Subaru for three months. The first installment will be in store in a couple of days.

「読書日録」、「すばる」2007年7月号、pp. 318-319.

This month I am discussing three following books:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Neighboring the aboriginals

Nahoko Uehashi is an anthropologist-novelist whose fantasy novels are very popular in Japan. The literary journal Eureka dedicated its June issue to her work; I contributed an essay on her anthropologist side.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

La France et les poetes japonais modernes

Il y aura une soirée de débat (?) sur l'oeuvre de Nakahara Chuya et autres poètes modernes du Japon. Ryoko Sekiguchi, notre amie poétesse qui écrit en français ( et qui habite à Paris), va participer. C'est dommage que c'est un mardi... il faut trouver un "way out" pour y aller!

La Pleurante

Sometimes a fragment of a work makes a good enough reading for the day; here is what Sylvie Germain writes in La Pleurante des rues de Prague:

Ce sont ces larmes d'inconsolés qui bruissent dans le grand corps immatériel de la pleurante des rues de Pragues, et ces inconsolés sont aussi bien des vivants que des morts.
Cette pleurante boite sans fin entre deux mondes, celui du visible et celui de l'invisible, celui du présent et celui de passé, celui de la chair et du souffle et celui de la poussière et du silence. Elle louvoie d'un monde à l'autre, --passeuse clandestine de larmes mêlées, celles des disparus et celles des vivants. (39)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gayatri Spivak in Japan

Gayatri Spivak is coming to Japan in July and her official schedule is now published:

See you at one of the occasions!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

If not here, where on earth is sacred?

My new essay is now published in Kazeno tabibito, no. 26. For the first time I revealed my personal two most sacred places...


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Homo scribens (according to Malcolm Cowley)

Here is what Cowley says a propos of Caldwell:

Such is the image of HOMO SCRIBENS, the writing man, that Caldwell presents to the world, and to himself as an ideal. It is a radically simplified picture that omits the problems encountered by others who follow the trade. Caldwell's idealized writer has no problems except material ones; no doubts of himself, no hesitations, no fears of losing contact with his subliminal wealth. He is impelled to write by a physical need that makes him forget the need for sleep; turning back the clock, he goes on working without being disturbed by hunger or sexual desire. His only aim is to set down, in the simplest words, a true unplotted record of people without yesterdays. Past literature does not exist for him, and he is scarcely aware of having rivals in the present. As with Adam in the garden, every statement he makes is new. His only mentor is WEBSTER'S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY; his only acknowledged judge and critic is the inner ear.

(And I Worked at the Writer's Trade)

Kind of cool, ain't it?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Steven Yao's talk

My friend Steve Yao (Hamilton College) gave his talk on Asian American literature at Yoshiaki Koshikawa's Meiji seminar today. This is the first time for Steve to come to Japan. With Kyoko Omori, Shuzo Saito, and Keita Hatooka, it was a very enjoyable afternoon of serious "causerie litteraire."

Then when we were done for the class, we had an announcement. Meiji University would be closed for a week to prevent the spread of measles! How very strange, indeed. Most of the major universities in Tokyo are now hit by this desease. Biological terrorism of a sutble kind? I don't know.

Friday, May 18, 2007

La folie de Francoise Dolto

I am baffled to read a passage by Françoise Dolto. She must be one of the most mystique of thinkers. "It's so important to remember what is said at the time of birth," she says. Here is her admirable and enigmatic statement:

Nous sommes parole densifiée, une parole absente, pas dite, qui est au-delà des sentiments qui font s'étreindre deux êtres. (...) Un être humain IN UTERO est "parlé" par ses parents, il entend la voix -- ce que nous savons maintenant et qu'on ne savait pas. Je vais même jusqu'à dire qu'un enfant--je vais dire une bêtise pour beaucoup d'accoucheurs--, un enfant qui est un peu trop pressé de naître, on dirait que c'est un enfant qui veut aller du côté où ça parle, plus vite que les autres. En tout cas, ces enfants qui naissent prématurément ont besoin de beaucoup de paroles au moment de leur naissance pour leur expliquer ce que c'est tout d'un coup d'être venu un peu trop tôt et d'avoir besoin de soins qui vont les séparer de leur parents.

(Parler juste aux enfants, 14)

Do you understand this? Do you REALLY understand this? And do you REALLY agree?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Les freres corses

Frankly, I wouldn't have picked up a Dumas twenty years ago. But when I casually began reading Les freres corses (1844) I was instantly engrossed. What fluidity of narration, what excitement! The signs of a masterpiece are all over. Of course the story is silly, if you want to look at it that way. But it touches upon our secret desire for a well-wrought narrative in which one thing leads to another, with occasional breezy moments. A very nice, exciting story. What's behind it all is the twin brothers' telepathy.

Eh bien, il a fallu un coup de scalpel pour nous séparer; ce qui fait que, tout éloignés que nous sommes maintenant, nous avons toujours un même corps, de sorte que l'impression, soit physique, soit morale, que l'un de nous deux éprouve a son contre-coup sur l'autre. Eh bien, ces jours-ci, sans motif aucun, j'ai été triste, morose, sombre. J'ai ressenti des serrements de cœur cruels: il est évident que mon frère éprouve quelque profond chagrin. (42)

Full of silly exoticism, it is true, when it comes to depict the island Corsica, but it's so attractive, too. Dumas, the great. I'll probably read all of his masterpieces that I have overlooked in my youth in the years to come.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Travel into World Culture (Africa)

My friend Kazue Nakamura organized a series of 6 lectures for the Liberty Academy, Meiji University. 6 speakers over the period of 10 weeks will talk about Africa, its images, and the diaspora of its people. Today Shinichiro Suzuki, the reggae-man professor, talked about the Caribbean and its musical culture. It was very interesting. Co(s)mic blackness... a nice phrase to be remembered! Afterwards we had tea together at the Hilltop Hotel.

I'll be the speaker in four weeks... what shall I talk about?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On Being Corse (Alexandre Dumas)

Here is a nice dialogue in Dumas' splendid novella "Les Frères Corse":

--Et quel âge a madame Savilia? demandai-je.
--Quarante ans, à peu près.
--Ah! fis-je répondant toujours à mes propres pensées, alors à merveille; et des enfants, sans doute?
--Deux fils, deux fiers jeunes gens.
--Les verrai-je?
--Vous en verrez un, celui qui demeure avec elle.
--Et l'autre?
--L'autre habite Paris.
--Et quel âge ont-ils?
--Vingt et un ans.
--Tous deux?
--Oui, ce sont des jumeux.
--Et à quelle profession se destinent-ils?
--Celui qui est à Paris sera avocat.
--Et l'autre?
--L'autre sera Corse. (18)

Blue Plum

On the 4th of May we went for BBQing at Ome with the Hayashis. Ome is the most rural area within the boundary of Tokyo and it takes about 1 hour and a half from where we live. We went out to the riverside (the same River Tama), the water was chilly and clean, we grilled chicken and beef, drank and took it easy. Exactly a year ago we were there and we were so happy to be back this time. And this year with my puppy Amiable. She was rather apprehensive about getting her feet wet, but was excited to see other dogs woofing around. Many thanks to my friend Takumi Hayashi who invited us.

Ome writes 青梅 and means "blue plum." Then I googled to find out that there's The Blue Plum festival somewhere in Tennessee!

A stunning connection between two utterly unrelated places.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

De l'infini interne (Le Clezio)

Voici un passage de L'inconnu sur la terre, un livre que j'ai toujours voulu apprendre par coeur, pour mieux voir le monde:

Mais dans la beauté réelle il y a surtout ceci: l'infini interne. Parfois, je regarde des yeux, comme cela, deux yeux dans le visage d'un enfant de cinq ans. Ils ne sont pas comme des yeux d'animal, et ils ne sont pas non plus comme des yeux d'homme. Ce sont deux yeux profonds, clairs, qui fixent directement votre regard, qui traversent tout droit l'air transparent de leur lumière que rien ne peut troubler. Ces yeux n'expriment rien, du moins rien de ce que les paroles des adultes laissent comprendre. Ils ne veulent pas juger, ni séduire, ni subjuguer. Ils veulent seulement voir ce qu'il y a, et par les pupilles ouvertes, recevoir en retour le rayonnement de la lumière. Alors dans ces yeux, sans qu'on puisse comprendre pourquoi, on aperçoit soudain la profondeur qui est sous toutes les apparences. C'est un vertige inconnu qui s'empare de vous, tandis que le regard clair de ces yeux d'enfants s'appuie sur vos propres yeux. Une porte en vous s'entreouvre, et l'espace vaste et le temps très grand commencent à sortir, à glisser comme un souffle, comme une eau froide qui va et vient. (63)

Ce qui est tout à fait fascinant dans ce passage et la dernière phrase dans laquelle sont juxtaposés: le temps, le souffle-air, et l'eau.

Stephen and Augustine (Kenneth Burke)

Here is a passage from The Rhetoric of Religion (1961):

The divine scheming had gone still further. Recall, in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, how love of language figures in Stephen's apostasy from Catholicism to aestheticism. Though having lost his belief in the Bible as doctrine, Stephen still savours the words for their style. This is nearly the reverse of Augustine's course. At first Augustine listened to Ambrose purely through professional admiration for him as a speaker, being interested in the manner rather than the matter of his sermons. Yet imperceptively, unknowingly (sensim et nesciens) he was being drawn closer to belief; and about three years before his conversion, while still methodically doubting, largely under Ambrose's influence he decied to become a catechumen in the Catholic Church. (80)

On Pound's Cantos (Antony Easthope)

Although there is of course no question of a return to the feudal ballad, modern poetry and especially that of the "Cantos" is more like the ballad than it is like anything from the intervening discourse of the bourgeois epoch. At stake in modernism, once again, is the definition of subject position. All the tactics, including those given manifesto treatment as "the tradition" and the ""ideogram," can be understood as working towards a single end---to foreground signifier over signified, to acknowledge that the reader is positioned as subject of enunciation producing the enounced of the poem. (Poetry as Discourse, 134)

On Hardy's Wessex

This is the kind of land I'd like to visit, along with Giono's Manosque and Faulkner's Mississippi:

It is a landscape of chalk and limestone downland, of low moors and acid heaths, of alluvial valleys, of the New Forest of the Norman Kings and the old cleared forests on heavy clay soils like the Vale of Blackmoor where in Hardy's view "superstitions linger longest."

(Desmond Hawkins, Hardy: Novelist and Poet, 208)

Probably the closest I've ever been to to this landscape is that of the southern Washington state. Yes, including Nirvana's Aberdeen and its environs.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It is / it is NOT in Stevens

Whatever it may be, IT exists or not, and the synthesis is only brought about by an aesthetical judgment. In other words, by creation, forming, in-forming. Webb in the same book says this on Stevens:

If the early Stevens is reminiscent of Nietzsche's proclamation of the death of God and his effort to revive in an atheistic framework a pagan sense of the sacred, the later Stevens is more reminiscent of the dialectical tension between cataphatic and apophatic theology. Being and nothingness are two of the most prominent motifs in the later poems, and in Stevens' use they are actually two aspects of one reality. Being is in all things, yet never contained in them; and although it is evanescent in them, it is only in them that it can be apprehended. Consequently to approach it in poetry, one must use both positive analogies and their negations. (82)

Construction and deconstruction working at the same time, in the same stroke; thus is the destiny of poetry. (Ain't it?)

Transcendent / immanent (Eugene Webb)

Here is what Eugene Webb has to say on the sacred:

[T]he sacred, however it is formulated conceptually, is always apprehended experientially as simultaneously transcendent and immanent, and its transcendent and immanent aspects may serve as poles between which the experience moves. When one pole is more prominent than the other, this will affect the character of the experience. When the transcendent pole dominates, the experience will be characterized relatively more strongly by the sense of terror and of sinfulness; when the immanent pole becomes more prominent the sense of terror and sinfulness will give way to other feelings, perhaps a sense of salvation and forgiveness, perhaps a sense of rebirth and of participation in sacred being. (The Dark Dove, 7)

This rings true.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On Gurus and Their Pitfalls

Indian psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar writes:

I have mentioned above the dangers of the guru role lie in the disciples' massive parental projections which the guru must process internally. Although the guru shares this danger with the analyst, or more generally, with any healer, the intensity of these projections, their duration, and the sheer number of devotees involved are vastly greater than in the case of his secular counterparts. These idealizing projections are subversive of the guru's self-representation, constitute an insiduous assault which a few gurus---again like some therapists---are not able to successfully resist. A regression to an omnipotent grandiosity is one consequence, while in the sexual sphere a retreat into sexual perversion has been reported often enough to constitute a specific danger of the guru role. (The Analyst and the Mystic, 53-54)

So it's a general mechanism that the gurus themselves fall victims to their own power of initial attraction.

Emerson and Philosophy (according to Cavell)

I [Cavell] think of no one else in the history of thought about whom just this gesture of denial is characteristic, all but universal, as if someone perversely keeps insisting---perhaps it is a voice in the head---that despite all appearances it must be Emerson himself whose insistence on some such question it is so urgent to deny. Yet we know that Emerson was himself convinced early that his "reasoning faculty" was weak, that he could never "hope to write Butler's ANALOGY or an Essay of Hume"...And nothing I find could be more significant of his prose than its despair of and hope for philosophy. (This New Yet Unapproachable America, 78)

Monday, April 30, 2007

What did I know then?

From Eliot Weinberger's great book Karmic Traces:

Sanskrit poetics applied the theory of karmic traces to the act of reading. One responds to a poem because it speaks directly to one's experience, but that experience need not have occured in this life. (...) Poetry, then, in India, is not only the place where we may hear the dead speak, it is the place where we hear our dead selves speak. (151)

And one of my dead selves responds joyously to the passage.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Faiseurs de notes, contrebandiers de la litterature. (Perros)

Here is a neat distinction made by Georges Perros between a maxim and an aphorism:

Une maxime se travaille, se pense, profite de l'homme, est civilisée. Un mot la fait surgir. Un contact. Elle est court-circuit, mais les plombs sont réparables. L'aphorisme se passe de l'homme. Se fait et défait tout seul. Méprise. Il est le signalement le plus fier de l'indifférence. Ne sollicite, ne flatte ni l'amour ni l'opinion. Rien de politique. (Papiers collés 1, 14)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

On Miracles (Auden)

A quote from Auden that's so appealing to me on this particular day:

Everything that happens is a witness to the truth: the special value of miracles is that they reveal the imperfection of man's knowledge, and stimulate him to search further: they induce humility and curiosity. A miracle has not borne its full fruit until it is understood, that is, until it has ceased to be a miracle and can be repeated as will.

(W.H. Auden, The Prolific and the Devourer, 55)

Another sacrificial structure!

Nijinski and snake poison

Nothing beats Claudel's journal in its unexpected real-life arrangements. Here is what he wrote in 1917 in Brazil:

1-3 sept. (1917)

Voyage à S. Paul pour présider le comité Syrien. Harangue à la réunion des Syriens et Libanais. Banquet de 80 couverts à Trianon. Promenade à Cantareira avec Montgolfier et les Nijinski. Le lendemain conversation intéressante avec Nijinski sur mon projet de ballet et déjeuner avec eux au Trianon. L'Institut de Butantan [sic]. Le Professeur Vital Brasil. Le venin des serpents a un pouvoir extraordinaire de faciliter la digestion. Il permet de digérer les os. Seules les plumes, les cornes, les écailles ne sont pas digérées.

Syrien, Montgolfier, les Nijinski, l'Institut de Butantã in a couple of days. What a life!


In studying literature I have always wanted (since my undergraduate days in the early 1980s) to associate myself with a group of German romanists including Curtius, Spitzer, Auerbach, and to a certain extent Benjamin. Now, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, one of the most interesting comparatists working today, writes as follows:

Ernst Robert Curtius laid the foundations of his academic reputation in the 1920s, when he was known as an eminent specialist in contemporary French and Spanish literature; he then, from the early 1930s on, began to concentrate on the history of poetological ideas and literary forms in the Middle Ages. Leo Spitzer had been trained, during the first two decades of the twentieth century, as a historical linguist, but he soon turned toward a highly subjective style of immanent-text interpretation (for which the concept of "lived experience" was key). Erich Auerbach, finally, who singlehandedly created a new discourse within literary history, was notoriously weak when it came to the basic phililogical skills.

(The Powers of Philology, 1)

Soit. None of them, then, was a philologist in the proper sense. I can't claim anything either, with my UTTER LACK of basics. It's a pity indeed but it's beginning to be too late to catch up. I've known it always. What a mess. Typical me.

But then when someone like Paul de Man talks about philology, he seems to me to have a solid intention in mind. Departing from metaphisics of "philo-sophy," I think he tried to concentrate on language's rhetorical aspects. Hence, "philo-logy," a materialist gaze at the texture of language per se.

And this brings me back to Burke's logology.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Le temps de cannibalisme (Metraux)

Voici un passage d'Alfred Metraux:

L'anthropophagie des Pascuans n'était pas exclusivement un rite ou une manifestation du besoin de vengence, elle était aussi provoquée par un simple appétit de chair humaine qui pouvait pousser un homme à tuer sans autre but que son désir de viande fraîche. C'étaient surtout les femmes et les enfants qui tombaient victimes de ces cannibales invétérés. Les représailles qui suivaient ces attentats étaient d'autant plus violents qu'un acte de cannibalisme commis contre un membre d'une famille était pour celle-ci une insulte terrible. Ceux qui avaient pris part au repas étaient, comme les anciens Maoris, en droit de montrer leurs dents aux parents de la victime et de leur dire : "Votre chair m'est restée entre les dents". De tels propos pouvaient déchaîner chez celui qui en était l'objet, une folie meutrière peu différente de l'amok malais. (84)

Isn't this the surest way to lead a society to its destruction!

Un baton garni de cochets

An interesting story of an aide-mémoire by Alfred Métraux:

Cet aide-mémoire était en réalité un accessoire inutile puisque le récitateur connaissait par cœur sa liste d'ancêtres; mais le bâton lui permettait de donner à l'audience une image concrète des générations d'ancêtres.

(L'île de Pâques, 163)

What a mise-en-scène!

Poesie anti-poesie

Here is what Perros has to say on his poetics:

Décapitaliser le langage.
L'octroi du langage "poétique."
La pauvreté.
La MUSIQUE n'est pas un état d'âme. (108)

On the definition of diary (Georges Perros)

It's been several years already since my friend Toshiyuki Horie wrote a splendid book on Georges Perros. Here is a great definition given by Perros for his 1946 journal:

Sans date.

Tous les jours, quelque chose d'intéressant. Ce peut être d'hier, ou d'il y a vingt ans. Ce peut être ce qu'on pensera demain, qui fait signe aujourd'hui. Un journal, ce devrait être ça.

(Papiers collés 3, 257)

Bravo! Hawking

The image of Professor Stephen Hawking floating in the air today brought me to tears... What a guy. What a guy, indeed!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


An old student of mine from the year 2000 visited me in my office today. Koba belongs to the first bunch I taught at Meiji... the class had a nice gang of assorted brats. One of them, Akira the photographer, is now getting married. Koba decided to videotape my message for him. I sang Clapton's Wonderful Tonight with my unplugged electiric guitar (an Indonesia-made Jet King) then said the following:

Hola, Akira,
Escuchame bien,
El amor es lo mas importante en la vida,
Les deseo una vida llena de alegría, gozo, y viajes
¡Felicitaciones de todo mi corazón!

Among them, Kamiya is still training to be a pilot, Kosaku is soon graduating the U of Toronto, Miss Yukimura is now stamping passports at the Osaka International Airport, Miss Maeda is a mother of a baby (I used to call girl stidents with "miss"; is this a form of sexism).

How nice occasionally to see them and learn how they are faring in life. The only joy of being a teacher, talvez.

Monday, April 23, 2007

On being inevitable (Harold Bloom)

Here is an unavoidable question raised by Bloom:

"INEVITABILITY," unavoidable phrasing, seems to me, then, a crucial attribute of great poetry. But how can a reader tell, for herself, whether a poem she has never seen before possesses the quality of authentic poetry? As you read a poem, there should be several questions in your mind. What does it mean, and how is that meaning attained? Can I judge how good it is? Has it transcended the history of its own time and the events of the poet's life, or is it now only a period piece?

(The Art of Reading Poetry, 41)

Visages de la philosophie

Photographer Louis Monier took photographs of French philosophers; Denis Huisman wrote the accompanying texts. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable introductory Who's Who of the sages and madmen. There are faces I like and others I don't. Sometimes the visual image works so forcefully to make you decide: I'm done with this person because I don't like his/her face. Tant pis! But with our time in life limited, I don't think it's altogether a bad idea to throw away books written by authors whose faces you can't agree with!

There are faces I see for the first time. Such as Desanti, Dagognet, J.-P. Faye. Others of course are familiar.

My picks are Lyotard (whom I have always admired), Debray (with his strong sense of latinité), Edgar Morin (with his bonhomme-ish Jewish smile), J.-F. Revel (militant-looking like a dogo argentino), and Clément Rosset (the chubby bohemian).

Faces may not tell it all, but they do tell something in sound and fury.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

El dogo argentino

Today I went to see the film Bombón: El Perro with my daughter. It's a gem! The breed is very attractive against the backdrop of Patagonia. The coversations through and through are carried out in a heavy Argentine accent. It brings back memories from 1984... Dogs are nice. Patagonia is beautiful. And the cinema is the only possible paradise on this earth...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lacan on Montaigne

It's mandatory that you open some pages of Lacan from time to time. He may habe been a charlatan of some sort, but o what insights everywhere. Here is Lacan on Montaigne from his 1964 seminar:

Je voudrais vous montrer que Montaigne est vraiment celui qui s'est centré, non pas autour d'un scepticisme, mais autour du moment vivant de l'APHANISIS du sujet. Et c'est en cela qu'il est fecond, qu'il est guide éternel, qui dépasse tout ce qu'il a pu représenter du moment a définir d'un tournant historique.

And then he goes on to say:

Mais ce n'est point là le scepticisme. Le scepticisme est une éthique. Le scepticisme est un mode de soutien de l'homme dans la vie, qui implique une position si difficile, si héroique, que nous ne pouvons même plus imaginer--justement peut-être en raison de ce passage trouvé par Descartes, et qui conduit la recherche du chemin de la certitude à ce point même du VEL de l'aliénation, auquel il n'y a qu'une issue--la voie du desir. (203)

This issue of scepticism to be considered.

On Snobism

And another quote from Girard:

There is a necessary link between indignation and culpability, and this indignation is fed by the most penetrating insight. Only a snob can really know another snob since he COPIES the latter's desire, that is, the very essence of his being. There is no question here of looking for the usual difference between copy and original for the very good reason that there is no original. The mediator of a snob is himself a snob--a first copy.
There is a close and direct connection between comprehension and participation in metaphysical desire. Snobs understand each other at first glance and hate each other almost as quickly, for nothing is worse for the desiring subject than to see his own imitation brought into the open. (73)

On Passion

Each time I take up Girard, his simple style instantly agitates me and inspires in me a deep desire to write like him. What stupidity of mine, for sure. But inevitable, too. To learn as well as to write cannot but be mimetic.

Passion, in Stendhal, is the opposite of vanity. Fabrice del Dongo is the perfect example of the passionate person; he is distinguished by his emotional autonomy, by the spontaneity of his desires, by his absolute indifference to the opinion of Others. The passionate person draws the strength of his desire from within himself and not from others.

(Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, 19)

Digital Content Studies

Our first, April meeting took place today with Hiroyuki Akama's great talk. Well known as a historian of ideas (particularly that of psychoanalysis), he is one of the most brilliant persons I've met. Today he talked about the fusion of science and humanities from many different aspects. Taking the famous "golden section" and its relationship with the general mechanism of the metaphor, he proceeded to explain the antagonistic positions of "embodiment theory" and "amodal theory," finishing with a nice presentation of "mirror neuron." It was very enjoyable.

From our program, art historian Shino Kuraishi and computer scientist-media artist Homei Miyashita were there, as well as Beckettian Yoshiyuki Inoue who teaches English at Meiji. We also had four students and we are hoping they will enter our program next year.

Let's face it. There is no separation between nature and art, nor between science and art!

C'est un devoir, tu sais, un DEVOIR!

Voici une nouvelle citation de Meschonnic:

Il y a un devoir de lucidité. Du poète, plus et autrement que de tout autre. Cet exercise minimal qui appartient à tous, et qui est le devoir de la pensée. Son éthique, sa politique. Bibelots, le reste. Il y a une critique du regard, une intelligence du voir, et du voir à travers, comme on dit lire entre les lignes, du voir ce que c'est que voir, que seule peut faire la poésie. (La rime et la vie, 211)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sartre Strange

Taking up Sartre's Baudelaire for the first time in about twenty years, I get a big kick out of it. His metaphors, comparaisons are very funny. For me the best is that of the white merle.

Ici commence le drame baudelairien: imaginez le merle blanc devenu aveugle --- car la trop grande clarté réflexive équivaut à la cécité. Il est hanté par l'idée d'une certaine blancheur étendue sur ses ailes, que tous les merles voient, dont tous les merles lui parlent et qu'il est le seul à ne pas connaître. (26)

C'est que l'attitude de Baudelaire vis-à-vis de sa singularité n'est pas si simple. En un sens, il réclame d'en jouir comme les Autres peuvent le faire et cela signifie qu'il veut se tenir en face d'elle comme en face d'objet; il souhaite que son regard intérieur la fasse naître comme la blancheur du merle blanc naît sous les yeux des autres merles. (64)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Considering oneself an autodidact

J'avais commencé par me faire renvoyer du lycée pour mauvaise conduite! Je me souviens néanmoins d'un roman qui a été pour moi fondamental, même si je l'ai lu longtemps dans une version framçaise abrégée pour les enfants: le DON QUICHOTTE de Cervantès. (...) C'est tout seul que j'ai appris à lire, et je n'ai jamais appris grand-chose dans les écoles ou les universités. Je suis de tendance autodidacte. (René Girard, Les origines de la culture, 30-31)

Le voyage typographique

My long-time friend Chihiro Minato had his new book (of photos and short essays) published recently. It's called Moji no haha tachi (les mères de lettres): le voyage typograhique. It's a masterpiece. The book is made up of a series of photographs of France's national printing factory (where they print passports, telephone directories, among others). The place was closed down a couple of years ago and he had taken photographs of the factory's last days. There are also pictures from the Dainippon Insatsu in Tokyo. The two counterparts make a perfect balance to commemorate the history of printing.

Minato gave a talk tonight with another friend of mine, novelist Toshiyuki Horie, at the ABC bookstore. It was very interesting and illuminating, even. Printing is the basic technology that shaped modern human mind. And it's just about to go, replaced by digital technology. Sad, sad.

But then we have somebody like Shunichi Mamura, the book designer, who publishes an art magazine called Tamaya. The whole magazine is composed in a very traditional fashion (typographic priting). Later this year, my poems will appear in it. Oh, what a joy...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

O que esta acontecendo?

32 people shot to death in Virginia, the mayor shot and in critical condition in Nagasaki... Who is killing whom? And what's happening all around the world that doesn't even appear on the surface of the media coverages.

Where is life?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chatwin / Le Clezio

The talk I gave at the Institute for Human Sciences, Meiji University,last year is now printed in the following booklet.

「終わりなき旅を生きること チャトウィンとル・クレジオ」

Artaud's poesie

Il y a dans toute poésie une contradiction essentielle. La poésie, c'est de la multiplicité broyée et qui rend des flammes. Et la poésie, qui ramène l'ordre, ressucite d'abord le désordre, le désordre aux aspects enflammés; elle fait s'entre-choquer des apspects qu'elle ramène à un point unique: feu, geste, sang, cri. (Héliogabale, 97)

Crowd, Media, Violence

Such is the title of my graduate course at Rikkyo this year. The class will begin tomorrow. I will be discussing three major works of social theory in the latter half of the XXth century: Elias Canetti's Masse und Macht, Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy, and René Girard's La violence et le sacré. All of them I've been carrying since 1981.

It's so consoling to know that Hugh Kenner, the great Hugh Kenner, was once McLuhan's student. And so was Walter Ong, even if Walter was about the same age as Marshall. Canada is an interesting country!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Le latin chez Spinoza

This will be the year that I finally begin learning Latin in ernest:

Le latin, chez Spinoza, n'a pas la même place que chez Descartes, qui a tantôt écrit en français, tantôt en latin. De même, Francis Bacon avait écrit SYLVA SYLVARUM en anglais --- la traduction latine est d'un autre, et posthume. Hobbes a écrit aussi tantôt en anglais tantôt en latin, et en se retraduisant en latin, comme pour le LÉVIATHANT. Leibniz est trilingue. Lui qui pensait à une caractéristique universelle, il écrit en latin, en français et, moins, en allemand. Son rapport aux langues, et au langage, serait à voir, hors des limites de ce travail.
Mais Spinoza, à part quelques lettres en néerlandais, a tout écrit de son oeuvre en latin. On sait que le COURT TRAITÉ DE DIEU, de l'HOMME ET DE SON BIEN, découvert en 1861, en néerlandais, oeuvre de jeunesse, est une traduction. Toute sa pensée s'est écrite en latin. (Meschonnic, 254)

Fabulous! It's way too late for me to switch the language for thinking, maybe, but there is always a fair possiblity to read the world anew when one takes up another language. Even more son when the language in question is Latin! My voyage to Romania continues.

Energy is

Another great quote from Meschonnic:

Le rythme, la prosodie sensualisent le discours. Ils en sont à la fois le mouvement, l'activité et l'énergie --- l'ENERGEIA de Humboldt. Et il y a une énergie stupéfiante dans la pensée, chez Spinoza. Sa pensée EST cette énergie. Et par là, c'est aussi une érotisation généralisée du langage. Il y a un érotisme de la pensée. Spinoza est de ceux qui le réalisent. (193)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Le style de Suares

I have been interested in Suares, a once-very-popular-writer-with-grand-intelligence who is today all but forgotten. But he is a great stylist! Here is an example from his writing in 1939:

Toute l'histoire du genre humain, dans sa partie la plus noble, se ramène à l'évolution de la brute au saint, de la violence à la justuce et de la politique à la morale. Il est aussi impossible de concevoir l'homme vrai sans morale que la science moins la mathématique. L'Etat immoral de Machiavel est un retour à la bête; il est à la Cité humaine ce que la barbarie scientifique peut être à la science. (Vues sur l'Europe, 17)

And another:

Hitler n'est rien sans l'Allemagne. L'Italie ne serait rien sans Mussolini. Son peuple porte Hitler, et Hitler n'est que l'expression brutale et presque absurde de son peuple. Mussolini porte son peuple, au contraire: l'Italie n'est à présent que ce qu'il est lui-même, et qu'il a voulu qu'elle soit. (77)

This kind of stylistic construction (with a keen sense of balance) is very close to that of Mishima, whose influence I have always denied. But I have to admit that I do feel confortable and consoled reading this kind of essentially aphoristic style.

What surpirsed me was this biographical note written by Robert Parienté in the same book:

André Suarès est né en 1868 à Marseille dans une famille de négociants et d'intellectuels juifs. Très jeune orphelin de mère, il voit son père sombrer dans une interminable agonie. Lycéen aux qualités précoces il obtient à seize ans le premier prix du Concours Général de français; il est alors remarqué par Anatole France, qui lui consacre une chronique dans son feuilleton littéraire du TEMPS. / Reçu troisième à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, avant même d'avoir passé son baccalauréat, il devient le compagnon de thurne de Romain Rolland. Mais il ne parvient pas à s'adapter à un enseignement qui le rebute et échoue volontairement à l'agrégation.

I am touched. His name was not André but Isaac-Félix until 1900. Another point of misery.

The Salt of the Sea

A nice quote from André Suarès:

Tous les coeurs passionnés sont pessimistes: la tristesse est l'arrière-goût de la passion. C'est le sel de la mer...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Two essays

My two new essays are now published: Maori no shima no katasumide (Dans un coin de l'île des Maoris) and Africa no okurimono (Un cadeau de l'Afrique).


13 April

If I remember correctly, this must be the birthday held in common by Lacan, Beckett and Le Clézio.

Spinoza avait-il la langue neelandaise?

Bien sûr. Voici ce que Meschonnic dit:

De plus, "instruit", GEBROCHT BEN, a écrit Spinoza en néelandais, signifie "j'ai été élevé", langue d'enfance plus que d'étude. Sans oublier que son correspondant n'aurait peut-être pas pu la lire en espagnol. De fait, à part l'APOLOGIE en espagnol, qui est perdue, on n'a aucun écrit de Spinoza en d'autres langues que le latin et le néelandais, qui sont donc ses langues d'adulte, et de pensée. (91)

Un point très intéressant.

Spinoza selon Meschonnic

Le livre d'Henri Meschonnic SPINOZA POEMES DE LA PENSEE doit être le plus passionnant pour moi cette année. Il critique tout le monde qui ont jusqu'ici écrit sur Spinoza... Alquié, Ricoeur, Deleuze, Negri, entre autres. Il prend part du langage. Sur Ricouer, par exemple:

Quant à Paul Ricouer, qui a toujours voulu tout réconcilier, le structuralisme et la phénoménologie, il voudrait "réconcilier connaissance et religion", "par delà la distinction de Kant entre foi et savoir, pour penser leur réconciliation". Mais c'était d'avance les penser séparés. Désolé, c'est trop tard, Réconcilier. Toute une vie philosophique, toute une époque y a passé. Réconcilier, c'est-à-dire concilier les inconciliables --- Spinoza et Leibniz. Pour tout avoir. Comme Blanchot disait de l'homme de culture. L'éclectisme même. (31)

Tiens, c'est vrai! Toute l'histoire de la philosophie et autres disciplines comparatistes sont pleine de cette sorte d'anecdotes. Racontés habilement par les hommes de culture...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

French 101

My introductory courses of French began today. I taught two classes. I am hoping that in a year we'll be reading some simple prose. With that aim in mind, I began by teaching them some simple quotations and the way to use the French-Japanese dictionary. Today's sentences:

Je pense, donc je suis. (Descartes)
La science n'a pas de patrie. (Pasteur)
Toute recherche oblige. (Gide)

My assignment for the next week is to write paragraphs (in Japanese) on the three of them, who they are, what they did. etc.

It's a welcome change for me (to teach French at this level).

Birkenhead for Life!

My little essay on Birkenhead, one of the suburban areas of Auckland, New Zealand, has now appeared in Gengo. It's mostly about the TV program BRO' TOWN. Check it out!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

anthropologie / sociologie

J'aime bien ce que Jean Baudrillard dit de la distinction entre l'anthropologie et la sociologie:

Je préfère d'une façon l'anthropologie à sociologie. Il me semble que l'anthropologie est un peu plus éloignée que la sociologie de ce réalisme social. Elle est plus proche de la métamorphose de l'espèce, et de tous les problèmes qui commencent à se poser biologiquement, au niveau de 'espèce, de façon plus aiguë, plus virulente qu'au niveau de la socialité.

(Le paroxyste indifférent, 77)

And the world is thus flattened...

What Kierkegaad envisaged as a consequence of the press's indiscriminate and uncommitted coverage is now fully realized on the World Wide Web. Thanks to hyperlinks, meaningful differences have, indeed, been levelled. Relevance and significance have disappeared. And this is an important part of the attraction of the web. Nothing is too trivial to be included. Nothing is so important that it demands a special place.

(Hubert Dreyfus, On the Internet, 79)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Le dernier brouillon (Bernard Cerquiglini)

On sait que, de Voltaire à Stendhal, il est habituel de ne pas mettre au point son manuscrit: on amende, corrige sur les epreuves successives, "sur le plomb". L'epreuve participe largement de l'avant-texte, elle est le dernier brouillon. [...] L'écrit preparatoire, par suite, devient signifiant, que l'on y voit tour à tour inspiration divine, génie createur, ou frayage aveugle de l'écriture; et, surtout, il acquiert de la valeur.

(Eloge de la variante, 23)

Monday, April 09, 2007

And what Artaud meant by CRUAUTE

Jean Baudrillard talks about Artaud's impossible dream:

Artaud rêve d'éliminer la représentation qui fait obstacle au corps, au corps dans sa cruauté. Le corps est là, même s'il n'est pas facile à vivre, il est l'acteur de sa propre dramaturgie. Il s'agissait de trouver un théâtre à la mesure de cela, mais je crois qu'aucun théâtre, à commencer par le sien, ne correspond véritablement à ce dont il rêvait...

(D'un fragment l'autre, 18)

Fear of Having to Mean (Iser on Beckett)

Here is what Wolfgang Iser has to say on Beckett:

However, if statements are made and then instantly rejected, as happens all the time in this trilogy, then we can have nothing more than the beginnings and re-beginnings of a plot. As a result of all this fragmentation, meaning becomes impossible to grasp, and instead there arises a massive blank---partially structured, it is true, by the rudiments of plot---and the reader finds himself almost compelled to produce a filling for this blank. A further stimulus to the reader's imagination is the fact that the first-person narrators (...) are all afraid that what they say or do might mean something; their fear is that some representative value might be extracted out of what they have said and might be taken for the meaning of the whole.

(Prospecting, 146)

Can't quite believe, but it's true...

In the city where I live, people voted as follows:

Ishihara 17613
Asano 12120
Yoshida 4332
Kurokawa 1093

The three combined will reach 17555, and still can't beat the chief. Oh, neighbors. I'd better walk out.

Canto / cuento

Octavio Paz has a taste for a subtle pun. Or is it Joycean play of the signifiants? Here is an example:

Quiero decir: el cuento del canto fue el canto, el tema del poema fue la poesía misma. O como dice el sentencioso Antonio Machado: se CANTA una historia y así se CUENTA une melodía. Contar es, simultáneamente, relatar una historia y escandir el verso: cuento que se vuelve canto y canto que, al contar el cuento, se canta a sí mismo --- al acto de cantar.

(La otra voz, 25)

El sentencioso Antonio! It's a lovely way to call one's master...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now, listen (Jeanette Winterson)

Here is a quote from Jeanette Winterson's interview:

Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening. When we are little kids we learn by listening. Writers have to have a knack for listening. I need to be able to hear what is being said to me by the voices I create. Just on the other side of creativity is the nuthouse---and I often notice people looking at me strangely when I am talking out loud, but there is no other way.

Lovely way to talk about one's madness from the best writer of my generation anywhere in the world!

Digital Content Study Group (its 1st meeting)

In preparation for opening a new master's program in Digital Content Studies at Meiji University, we are conducting a study group once every month this academic year. Our first meeting will be on 21st April and the guest speaker will be Hiroyuki Akama, my long-time buddy. He will talk on data mining and corpus linguistics for about 60 minutes and a free discussion will follow. Expected participants are: myself, art historian Shino Kuraishi, and computer scientist Homei Miyashita. If interested, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me! You are (mostly) all invited.

Unpacking my library (once again)

Nietzsche once boasted of his own ability as a philologist to examine about 700 books a day. This I need to seriously work on as my bookshelves are now overflowing with JUNK etc. There are numerous books I haven't really opened pages since I bought them, in some cases two decades ago! As a wandering pseudo-scholar, my books spent most of their physical days in cardboard boxes. They must be very unhappy. Now I pledge myself to browse them all anew to REVIVE them. A major work this year other than writing and translating!

Saturday, April 07, 2007


There is a town election. We have three candidates: A, B, and C.

A is the current mayor and I hate his guts. Of B and C, both detestable, I like B less. But most people think that B is the only possible one who at least have a chance to lose by a narrow margin to A.

Not convinced by what B says, I vote for B, detesting him, only to keep a chance of losing by a narrow margin to A.

After the vote I say to myself: "I only wish that C was a better candidate."

A nice review!

Shuzo Saito, of Aoyama Women's College, wrote a very nice book review in Subaru on my "honolulu, braS/Zil." He is absolutely right in pointing out the importance I assign to Wright and Niemayer as typical "nativist" architects of the Americas. Thanks, amigo!


Lazy Saturday

I spent a very lazy Saturday today by sleeping in until 10:30am! And then went out for lunch at a nearby pan-Asian restaurant where I had a bowl of soup rice noodle with fried shrimp balls. With a bottle of Indonesian beer... how fattening.

It's been a warm day. In the afternoon we went to buy a car at a local Toyota dealership. My seventh car (and the first in Tokyo). This car will last for a decade, I guess. We'll have to wait about two weeks before its delivery.

The biggest discovery I had today was this: Blaise Cendrars was born on 1 September 1887, at La Chaud-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Le Corbusier was born on 6 October 1887 at the same town! The two make an odd couple, the modernists of the modernists, both POST-CUBISTS, so to speak. One day I will write an essay on them.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dear Diary (According to Shusaku Endo)

1950. 27 year-old Shusaku Endo leaves Japan for France as one of the first Japanese students to go there after the WW II. Africa gives him a strong impression after a long, stressful sea voyage, then comes France, la douce, with its mild and beautiful landscape. There begins his solitary struggle of two and a half years.

Those days the phrase STUDYING ABROAD had a far greater meaning than today. Leaving his home country still suffering from a great defeat, with an ardent soul impatiently seeking after a fulfillment, he conducts his own inner dialogues with mostly Catholic French writers (bien que Gide était un écrivain protestant) day in, day out. It is interesting to note that his unusual ernestness, without a room for any frivolity, was the immediate matrix to later generate his immense sense of good-natured humor.

Judging from his records of reading, his reading skill in French was awesome! It is only natural that he occasionally slips into French when his favourite mental interlocutors are people like Gide, Charles du Bos and Julien Green, who are known for their very literary and spiritual "journals."

At this stage (in his late twenties) we already encounter his basic attitude toward life. "I am utterly against the idea of reducing mysticism to psychoanalysis. To the contrary, I would rather see everything around from the mystical point of view." Then on the occasion of Gide's death: "André Gide is dead. When I was ill in bed, he too was ill. When I recovered, he died. During my illness I often thought of the parallelism between Gide's world and mine. Then he died."

This is an aspect of a writer who to his end was obcessed with the phenomenon of synchronicity.


My short essay "Tagengo ga odoridasu" (Dancing Multilingualism) appeared in Hitachi's Spring 2007 issue. The background photography is that of Ingo Gunter's "The Globe with Eighty Languages."


Thursday, April 05, 2007

On sa(cre)dness

I finished my "Kazetabi" essay at around 2:00am this morning and immediately sent it to the editor.

It's about 6,800 characters long. The title is: If this was not the holy place at all, then. I write about several places from my past trips, including two very special spots in New Mexico (of which I really didn't want to talk), and the general idea of sacredness of the land, about how verticality is relevant to such a sense. And about the city in which I live, where there is no natural symbol for verticality.

Somebody like Mishima desperately sought after the vertical value axis for this mundane, fearless world. He dreamed of establishing a strong Imperial power as his axis mundi. I may be looking for a set of natural, local axis that has nothing to do with historically constituted pouvoir politique. But that's a big talk.

I came across two photographs taken of Omotesando: one with the Dojunkai apartments, the other with the UGLY Omotesando Hills (after 2006, that is). See what we have lost. And forever. The mirror-like wall of the Omotesando Hills is indeed the mirror to reflect our own incurable stupidity.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well past midnight

I am again struggling to finish an essay for the magazine Kaze no tabibito... It's a week past the deadline and I have finally grasped the picture. I think I can finish it in a couple of hours from now...

When my son was around 3 or 4, every time I mentioned the word "deadline" he screamed and said," Daddy, don't die!" At 16 he doesn't say that anymore and instead is fast asleep. Even my dog is sleeping with her loud, bulldog snoring. And I'll have to wake up at 6:30 again tomorrow morning to go to my office.

Mental images from New Mexico are flickering right in front of me...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Radio UNAM

This afternoon two of my poems were broadcast on the radio. It was a program on Radio UNAM and the poems were translated by Eiko Minami into Spanish. The poems were "Lisboa" and a piece from my on-going "Agendars." The radio guy read the translation and Eiko the Japanese original. I was really happy to hear the two languages alternating, following each other, thus presenting a world to which I contributed more than anyone else in its making. Of course the translator is more-than-half an author in this case! Many thanks to Eiko.

Michael Richardson once told me that the phrase "on-going" was ugly. Sorry, Michael, I used it again!

Yozakura (cherry blossoms at night) and them

Last night at midnight I saw a group of South Asians (India, Pakistan, I can't tell) quietly partying under the cherry blossom. Drinking beer (?) they were talking, not particularly in a low voice, but not so loud as to attract the neighbors' attention. Our area is changing, too, with more and more non-Japanese settling in. To me it's a welcome change; now we have a fine Indian takeaway. Xenophobia is the least admissible of human errors. I want to live in a society at least as varied as that New Zealand!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Polar (Naoki Ishikawa)

Naoki Ishikawa at barely 30 is today Japan's foremost adventurer cum photographer and essayist. An amazing guy! This time his theme is the great north, the northern circumpolar region. Fascinating images that embody Michio Hoshino and Bruce Chatwin in one. I particularly liked an image where a raven flies past the utterly white ground. The image is blurred and you get the purest impression of movement, nothing else. I also liked dogs and the town. Those far places I would never go...

Spiral Life (Yukihiro Yoshiwara, dir.)

Spiral Life: 130 years of the Yoshiwaras. This is the title of an exhibition I saw today at Emon Photo-Gallery in Hiroo.

The family has been running a photo studio in Shibata, Niigata, for six generations. Yukihiro Yoshiwara, the sixth owner-photographer of the studio, compiled rare materials found at his home to reveal the depth of more than a century hidden in this corner of northern Japan. The result is fascinating. It is difficult to precisely point out where the images' charm resides. A moving experience for anyone!

Please read my essay on the relevant subject of "death and photography" in the magazine Kaze no Tabibito's latest issue.

Have fun shopping... in Jinbocho!

I went to Surugadai (our main campus) today to meet my two new colleagues, Shino Kuraishi (art historian and critic) and Homei Miyashita (computer scientist, composer and media artist). We didn't have much time so our talk was done standing, yet it was a fruitful encounter. I met Miyashita for the first time. We have a common goal now to open and direct (cyber-navigate?) a new graduate program in 2008 called digital content studies.

Soon after I am on the street again, roaming. As the Jinbocho area is the world's biggest congregation of the second-hand book trade, I can't help occasionally dropping in at one or more used book shops. And you never fail to find some hidden treasure!

The period 1987-1998 doesn't exist for me, bookwise. I was out of the country. From that period there still are so many Japanese books I've never seen nor noticed, even. I enjoy looking at them, browsing, and buying once in a while. And that's not limited to Japanese-language books. Today I found in a road-side bin really good foreing paperbacks. They are:

Des bateaux dans la nuit (Philippe Labro, Folio).
Des feux mal éteints (Philippe Labro, Folio).
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Gertrude Stein, Penguin).
George Orwell (Raymond Williams, Fontana).

They do look old and faded, for sure, but still are in a very good condition, unread. Guess how much they are. 100 yen a piece! I'm all smile.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ashes and Snow (Gregory Colbert)

I also saw Gregory Colbert's exhibition: Ashes and Snow at the Nomadic Museum at Odaiba. The museum is an interesting portable architecture designed by Shigeru Ban. The show is sponsored by the Rolex Institute.

The whole show looks very nice and interesting. Images are great but incredibly human-centric, although their central theme is interspecies communication, seemingly. The images, beautifully rendered on Japanese paper, belong basically to the circus rather than any miraculous occurence in the nature. They are fascinating and at the same time they have something that put me off. They are in a way by their own essence a thorough denial of nature.

I wanted to buy some postcards or something, however. It was not worth asking the price. A mini-sized accordion book of 16 or so photographs, 1600 yen. A nice flip book, 1600 yen. A DVD, 6000 plus. And a boxed set of prints and catalogue (?), 3,500,000 yen! Nice price. And this belongs to another layer of the world than mine!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

FCI Asia International Dog Show

Went to see the biggest dog show in Asia today, at Tokyo Big Sight (this must be a pun on "site") in the Odaiba area. I used to be a junior handler when I was around 10. I went straight to the Ring 5 where a round of French Bulldog breed show was going on. The dogs were so well-built, impeccably manicured. To me a brindle male looked particularly good and it won the junior competition, apparently.

There were some awesome English bulldogs, too. Compared to the French, they were HUGE, with IMMENSE pows! My childhood dog was Toby, the English bull. Oh, how I miss him. Another breed I wanted to see was the Bull Mastiff, but we missed it. Leonbergers were quite nice, too.

Auto-circulating Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees are in full bloom and I've been making palindromes about them. These sentences are all untranslatable; I'll write them down in Japanese.


Beware, the final one is not really a palindrome! But when you present them in this order, almost every one believes and buys what you say.

What follows is the best one I wrote today. Made out of 21 Japanese letters.


Tonight I took my dog out for a walk to appreciate cherry trees blowing in a stormy wind. White petals in the air like so many snow flakes. Dream-like. The only bearable moment in this season!

Michael Richardson on Breton

I went to Waseda this afternoon for a presentation by my friend Michael Richardson on André Breton's L'art magique. It was held under the aegis of the newly formed Dada-Surrealism study group led by Masachika Tani, Humi Tsukahara and others. Breton gathers various African objects in his own private office and they are nice to look at, really, but what's the use of them when they are totally decontextualized? An object loses its magic once it's taken out of its own milieu.

Over the years I am less and less interested in surrealism, although I still feel strongly connected with them regarding basic sensibility. Breton was my hero when I was twenty. Now I consider Blaise Cendrars much more important and actual than all three representative surrealist poets combined: Breton (whom Blaise considered too pretentious), Aragon (whom Blaise considered to be a really brainy stylist), and Desnos (whom Blaise considered the only authentic poetic genius of the group).

Today was the last day of Michael's three-year appointment at Waseda. He is going back to England in July. Vale, Michael, the world is your oyster!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Whale of Dinner...

There is a restaurant in Shibuya called Kujira-ya, now totally refurbished. Went there last night with a couple of college buddies for the first time in almost twenty years. It's a very sophisticated restaurant and they gave us the best separate room there was, overooking the busy traffic down on the street. Ah, Shibuya has changed. It's sad to see the street I walked everyday back in the period of 1977-1983 so dirty and crowded.

The dinner was gorgeous. We paid 6000 yen a piece. The courses were:

1. Raw whale meat chopped and mixed with mentaiko (spiced cod roe) and squid.
2. Whale red meat sashimi combined with whale skin.
3. Deep fried whale meat.
4. Harihari nabe: a pot with soup stock in which you cook whale meat, vegetables, and finally some noodles.
5. Ice cream (green powder tea flavor).

It was delicious!

The dinner was to send off Yasushi Ishii, a Latin American lit specialist, to Stanford where he'sll spend two years. Keisuke Dan was with us; he is just finishing his long novel (that has been in the making for several years).

Next time at a dojo restaurant, perhaps! (Look up your dictionary and find out what DOJO is).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ah, c'est toi JuliA/En...

One of the books I've been browsing here and there is JuliAn Green's Le langage et son double, traduit par JuliEn Green. It's interesting how he thinks of the two languages separated by a thick wall. Somebody like Wallace Stevens, a casual reader, could pretend that English and French were one. Not so for Green, native in both languages.

This book presents his own texts and his own translations side by side; it is a source of infinite illuminations. Just look at his epigram for one of the essays:

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition sent
To be a moment's ornament.

This is rendered as:

C'était le fantôme de la joie
Quand la première fois elle brûla à mes yeux,
Charmante apparition envoyée
Pour embellir un instant.

The difference is striking. In the original English, "she" from the beginning is given with its anthropomorhic resonance. Then it is revealed that she is but a phantom, an apparition. Then in the French, the sentence is lead by a "Ce" and "le fantôme" is given sooner than the human-designating pronoun. Although the time lag is minimum, there is certainly a deep gap, with "elle" appearing late. "To be a moment's ornament" rendered with "embellir" gives a different impression, too.

There is much to be learned from here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Those were the days

It's March already and my resolution to work FURIOUSLY has been put off because of various obligations... tant pis! But I got to get some work done in three weeks. Essays, translations, as always. And some preparation for the new academic year. Ay, ay, ay.

I can only sing a Papago song at this time of the night:

In the great night my heart will go out;
Toward me the darkness comes rustling.
In the great night my heart will go out.
(American Indian Poetry, xx)

Last friday there was a party to honor my friend Shimada, the editor at Kokusho kankokai. He will quit his company soon to freelance. It's a hard way, but the only way to seek REAL satisfaction. I support him totally.

It was a rare occasion to gather the most prolific of translators actively working. With Motoyuki Shibata, Minami Aoyama, the Numanos, Kan Nozaki, Sachiko Kishimoto, among others, we have (including myself) produced several hundred books combined! The surface of the Japanese language mush have changed a little because of our collective work.

And March continues.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hello, old friend...

And here is what Alain says today:

Mais il faut dire aussi que l'homme content, s'il est seul, oublie bientôt qu'il est content; toute sa joie est bientôt endormie; il en arrive a une espece de stupidité et presque d'insensibilité. Le sentiment intérieur a besoin de mouvements extérieurs. (...) Tant qu'on est seul on ne peut être soi. Les nigauds de moralistes disent qu'aimer c'est s'oublier; vue trop simple; plus on sort de soi-même et plus on est soi-même; mieux aussi on se sent vivre. (21)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Alain, aujourd'hui

Je me sens de plus en plus proche d'Alain, qui écrit avec une simplicité incroyable. Voici une citation pour aujourd'hui:

Descartes, à mes yeux, est encore plus beau, sortant de son pays, fuyant toutes les preuves de l'example au milieu desquelles il a grandi, s'exilant par volonté. Voyageant et errant par discipline, afin d'effacer une coutume par une autre; et faisant même la guerre sans préférence, pour s'habituer à agir sans croire. (182)

Grace is the word for René!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Alain dit...

Ce qui est total et cosmique y est toujours TEMPÊTE, comme le printemps nordique. (Alain)

(C'est moi qui souligne.)


Voici une traduction que j'ai fait de Senghor... pour tuer le temps!






Tuesday, February 06, 2007

At ABC again

January didn't exist. It's already a week into February, fabulous. On the 20th this month, I'll hold a joint reading at the Aoyama Book Center with Akiko Otake, a seasoned veteran traveler/writer. You can reserve a seat (limited to 50) only by calling them at the store--for FREE. There will be an autograph session following. I'll be glad to personalize, too.

Talking about autographs, Cioran, one of my all-time favorite thinkers, writes the following:

La séance de la signature chez Gallimard, chaque fois qu'un livre paraît, est une chose qui m'ennuyait et une fois j'ai négligé de signer la moitié de mon contingent de livres. Je n'ai jamais eu d'aussi mauvaises critiques. C'est un rite et une obligation. Même Beckett ne peut pas s'y soustraire. Joyce n'a jamais pu le comprendre. (Entretiens, 7)

Cioran by the way is so quotable! Here is my favorite tonight:

LA PLUPART DU TEMPS JE NE FAIS RIEN. (...) Je ne vois qu'une putain sans client pour en faire moins que moi. (10-11)

An admirable fellow.

Monday, January 01, 2007


Feliz ano novo, bonne année, tout-monde! Ce que je cherche à faire, dès aujourd'hui, c'est écrire--des poèmes. Oui, c'est mon but, ma new year's resolution... On va voir ce que j'aurai fait dans un an. Tout va bien!