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!