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!