Red Night – Duanmu Hongliang

Red Night


Their poor little hearts reached so high
After grapes, they gave peaches a try
After a dragon, the tiger was sought
Then the oriole and the vulture in the sky.

Shh-shh as they flew, their black wings soaring the stirring the winds in dominance. The ospreys oblivious of the humans below soared in the sky, the destiny of the osprey village reasserting the flight of the birds as they inspected the earth below. The mistreated soul possessed with a sense of his own destiny rebelled against the fated dogma. Was Shilong a foolish soul to challenge the birds or was the lazy, ignorant boy the only brave soul in the village? Who is more courageous, the man who swims to the harbor or the fisherman brings a sense of novelty by giving fated end a new beginning? When humans betray, spew hatred among their species, make lives too bitter, is it a sin to save an animal instead of a man? The eternal fidelity of a dog becoming the only beacon of life amid human abhorrence. Man has become a passive observer concealing his mind from his inner conflicts , the fate of thousand years unchallenged, traditions passing through generations unchallenged , orthodoxical norms endowed with shamanistic rituals, the spiritual chants slaughtering the humanity of innocent love. Human sacrifice to appease the Gods mulishly wraps a mountainous village into an inhumane tragedy on a red night. Despairs rings, no sight of salvation, bringing evil superstitions the nightly red moon fades over the sorrows of the egret lake, the sickle slashing the beanstalks steadily erasing the class barriers of human ugliness into a harmonious world enmeshed within the beauty of nature.


Life on this earth is like a wispy cloud in snowstorm. You see it clearly, but with a swipe of the hand, it vanishes into thin air. He was like a drop of froth, crystalline, round and moist and full of life one moment, and then obliterated the next.

We are the children of nature. Nature endows us with imagination; it urges us to rethink about our “self” in its bare form, to rethink our humanity. The malice of human submerged in the cruelty of the nature. Nature is the greatest equalizer, the ultimate victor, the crucial catharsis of human nature. Ask, Steward Li about the power of nature equalizing the inhumane society and class discrepancies when trapped in a severe snowstorm? Silently rebirthing the spirit of humanity on a snowy night. The Yellow river overwhelmed with Ma Laohan’s laughter swells in the torrential whirlpool of patriotism and an everlasting fighting spirit against the enemy. The legend of the Fengling ferry now floating on the nightly waters, under the hazy light of the lanterns. Patriotism seduces through the wordy supremacy of “I need you!” the simple hunger consumed by utmost passion. The people of the land encumbered by patriotic obligations , while the country forgetting the obligation towards its own people, empty stomachs pacifying the hunger through objectionable means The unassuming philanthropy at the charity bazaar creating an ardent patriot from a street hooligan. The romance of a pipe dream dissolving into harsh reality , a bombastic dream shattered as Huang Guiqui revealed her own hypocrisy through hypocrisy. The yearning to be loved bursting at the whispering of petulant lips, the lure of love preyed upon by dubious happiness. The wispy life bolstered by the ecstasy of being needed.


Just a moment before, this face had been suffused with power, solemnity and intimidation. The grand total of his feelings had been nothing less than the symbol of a monarch! But now it was as though it had all been smashed by this single act of revolt, and the magic powers had vanished from that swollen discoloured hole!

To know what is meant to breathe air of freedom. The radiance of the land lost in its invasion, the people of the land robbed by the conquerors. Homesick children yearning to return to their once lovable abode, the incessant questions of why doesn’t Yeye eat kaoliang gruel?, lingers in the eyes of his grandchildren as somewhere Qingdi’sdreams of becoming a war hero hand on the fate of a brass medal and a bayonet. A life-changing barter seizes Mr. Wei in a battle of supremacy. The power of ham shaking the core of a man’s sense of identity. The rebellion for liberation from the corrupt brutality of higher socio-political authorities, a country waiting to be saved along with its people. The hunters revolt against the local government, the hordes of fox pelts brightly shining alongside the torrential muddy river. The mask of solemnity and intimidation falling off through a single act of revolt, the peasants clearly seeing the bluff of a broken face, the magic declining in a mottled hole. The sole symbol of a monarch dissipating within the dreary prison walls; societal hierarchy collapsing into the streams of innocent blood descending from the sword. The forged metal crushing the life of poor for generations ultimately becomes the only path of escape. Zhu the knife, branding justice on the very sword that he created. The rebellion of the commoners against a ruthless society channels internal distress and emotional predicament of an imminent exile .As the hibernating snake awaits the dawn of the spring, the snake swallower explores new avenues for his survival ;both seeking to breathe the air of freedom.

Duanmu Hongliang(1912-1996) was one of the most gifted and graceful writers in the modern era of Chinese literature.. The Japanese invasion of North-eastern China (Manchuria) on Sept.8, 1931 impacted Duanmu to a great extent. Thus, the Mukden Incident became one of the crucial influences on Duanmu’s literary career. The stories penned in this volume link the oppression and melancholy of human life interconnecting dual themes of the controversial Japanese invasion and bleakness concerned with personal human relations and survival on the whole. The quality of Duanmu’s literary work is more than making fairy tales out of reality. The panoramic landscape of his stories travel from the poetic verses embellishing the vast beauty of the nature, the echoes of songs sung through the mountainous lands seeped in the visages of the written allegorical and surreal folk tales , the deep understanding of a society besieged with orthodoxy and prejudicial hierarchy circuitously mocking the realities of life, the trails of humanity lingering from the picturesque forlorn corner of rural scenery to the swarming prosperous streets of a metropolitan and in due course leading back to the wholesomeness of nature chiseled by the kaleidoscopic array of human emotions forming a congenial entity. Reading this book is akin to tracing Duanmu’s footprints enlightening a time and an era filled with patriotic passions , and nostalgia and above all comprehending the humility of a human life in a mere day.

4/5 ****

Enslaved – Claire Thompson

Enslaved


“Please”, she whispered throatily. “I don’t have the cash to repay you. Let me make this right some other way”……..

…..” Anything, huh”, he drawled slowly. “Anything to avoid the certain jail time for embezzlement? Anything I want?”

“Anything”, she affirmed……..

 
Omfgintffsoigd! The said sentiment ceases to entice my senses, the plethora of inward bound sentiments no longer adhere to the facial theatrics induced by the omnipresent Urban Dictionary. Wonder whether it is the resonance of the currently playing mellow K-drama OST in the background or the very fact that I’ve finally come to a standpoint in my Erotica readings where the risqué heaving of “throbbing nipples”, “swollen cock” or “clover clamps twisting” is diminishing the resulting possibilities of any toe curling or legs crossing occurrences; deteriorating in the abyss of sensory deprivation. The ‘Yowza!!’ factor nowhere in sight. Neither am I asexual being nor have I been exhibiting any demisexual tendencies lately , yet the anticipation of Sam Ryker dictating his sadomasochistic flair peppered by the pondering whether Rae will earn the privilege of his cock , refuse to electrify the titillating factor ; the ricocheting sexual bullet collapsing midway without any impact. Seduction crumbling in its own irony, thwarting the expectation of an orgasm-centric sexuality. Erotic reads do not make me horny anymore! There I said it !! Could I get couple bonus points for being erudite about my despair??

Nonetheless, despite my titillation factor needing some of its own meditations, it is always a pleasure to read one of Ms. Thompson’s dark BDSM works. Rae Johansen caught in a monetary embezzlement scandal at Ryker Solutions takes a plea bargain, choosing the obedience and submission pattern of Sam Ryker’s dungeon over some jail time. The cat-o-nine tails echoing sans those Xena Warrior bras. My sensory deprivation desiring some visual upgradation. Ms. Thompson ups her BDSM quotient, the sexual kink veering into the sinister territories of S&M strategically highlighted by the vindictiveness of sexual authority. Sam comes across either as an overly ambitious Dom or rather as a reckless one, perplexed by the aptitude of his own sexual dominance, the underlying motivation of vengeance overwhelming the S&M role-playing parameters. Rae , on the other hand, trades the fine line between submission , coercion and sexual liberation.


Power corrupts.

He knew that as well as anyone. The relationship was flawed from the start, doomed to failure by its very setup. Relationship? Sam snorted aloud. There was not relationship. You couldn’t take submission; it had to be given. It was a gift, but, he’d stolen it, wrestled it from her, forced her to hand it over or suffer the consequences/ He’d used the guise of punishment for her stealing from him, but his motives had been far more complex.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

Brimming with prejudicial inferences, the sexual stratagem gets a bit tricky when it plunges into the darkest area of the Dom and Sub equation, weighing the dire possibilities of sexual fantasy clashing with sexual realism on the wafer-thin fragility of personal retribution and hardcore sadomasochism. The bondage game play thrives on the very essence of its adherence to fair power play and not resorting to abuse of the power. Thompson’s smartly nurturing of this aspect in the book brings an adept conclusion to this dark feral erotica. Yeperzers!!

3/5***

First Shadow After Hibernation…

lotussoo

On a string, dangle partial reads

Like vibrant yet broken beads,

Thoughts, no more search the verse,

Voiced a smallest cry in isolation,

Books, pages, encumber beneath,

The woes of futile persuasions

A vacant mind fading in disbelief,

Rebels the heart, a literary eclipse

An ink pen, yearning to be picked,

Unleashing lost voices through words….

Capitalism: A Ghost Story – Arundhati Roy

Capitalism: A Ghost Story

Roy brings nothing new to this book. It comes across as a collage of newspaper articles, a copy-paste of Roy’s own previous socio-political writings with may be slight references from the Foreign Affairs Journals or a Forbes Magazine. The befitting description would be this rather intriguing anecdote, during Roy’s book lecture held in 2012 at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Post her speech, a student, looking at Marxist books on sale outside the venue, summed up the evening: “Dude, I am a hardcore Capitalist. I don’t believe in dismantling capitalism. But what she was talking about is not Capitalism, it was crony Capitalism. And that’s a scourge.”

The above sentence, the very reason of me purchasing Roy’s literary reserve.

3/5 ***

Light Switch – Lauren Gallagher

Light Switch

Hot sex with Matt in between hot sex with Scott?…. When sentences become some sort of a road map to scout more sex scenes, you know the book is going to tumble somewhere. There is inner voice yelling – “ Bitch! don’t start with that “we need another hot sex scene” shit again! You say that shit every time you pick up an erotica!” And then I wondered, why the fuck was I watching ‘the Boondocks’ while reading this book. A Pimp Named Slickback, is that my alter ego now? Whateve bitchless! Imma seeing some poker face cockiness or somethin’…..I’m going back to the road map. Couple stop signs later…..Ooooh, a St. Andrews Cross!……a G-spot!….. Krissy wants fire and ice. A devil and an angel. Calm and crazy. Right in my face! Big ass neon sign- ‘Polyamoury’! There’s the winning streak!! I recognize the game now. You need an intervention! Your arteries are so clogged with that BDSM shit. Slickback, shut the fuck! It’s “A Pimp Named Slickback”. Are you deaf? Now, take my pimp hand and pray to the Lord.

3/5 ***

Sandalwood Death – Mo Yan

Sandalwood Death

Palpitation! The word itself brims with mystifying sounds. The flip-flopping of the heart muscle attuned to the ambience of the twelve tone symphony, fingers smoothly gliding over the chromatic keys of a piano, the steady tempo of the inherent music fluctuating within the irregularities of variable frequency of the cardiac rhythm, the fleeting pause descending into the pentatonic scales of a violin finding its way into the emptiness of a skipped heartbeat, synchronize the tingling of a body. The words of the heart coiled into the tremulous effect of rapid repetitions coursing through incessant throbbing. The forbearance of the heart melting away in the furnace of lawful decree. Yama, the King of Hell pacifying the cries of Little Insect. The bearded goat at the mercy of the white snake. The seduction of the white snake pitying the fool of the tiger. The pigs and dogs scrambling out of the fear of armed wolves. Amid snarling jackrabbits, the vicious panther pounces on the white tigers; the magical tiger’s whiskers drenched in the reverberations of an anxious heart. The black cat singing melodic, heartbreaking elegies, the feline cries swirling in bereaved hearts. The strings of mao hu(cat fiddle) birthing the opera of life and death, the stubborn ox designing the aesthetic antiquity of death; a rooster crowing at the sight of twin leather straps. The extravagant vocal arias of “….sandal—wood—death, a term with a rough exterior but an aesthetic core, displaying the patina and aura of antiquity”, overriding the myth of humans being reincarnated from animals, the animalistic demeanour of humans dishonourably indulgent than their primal rebirthing mammal souls. Man being worst than animals.


….what is known as “execution” is an art, one that a good man will not do and anyone who is not a good man cannot do. Executioner is an occupation that represents the heart and soul of the Imperial Court. When the calling flourishes, the Imperial Court prospers. But when it languishes, the Imperial Court nears its fated end.

Mo Yan’s graphically meticulous illustration of the execution acts signifies the central stance of the death penalty and the concurrent gory sentencing in China’s Imperial (1900s) political sphere. The piece of blood soaked human flesh quivering in the executioner’s malodorous palm acquaints the reader with the cruel method employed by the codes of criminal law to inflict maximum amount of suffering. Mo Yan’s embellished prose may at times be a graphical hyperbole yet; the elucidated display of harsh rule to install fear of retribution, certainly does not underplay the archives of reality. “The Plenipotentiary wants to know how long the condemned can live after he’s cut in half”. Executions being made more enjoyable than a stage play. ‘Loyalty’, the mocking sentiment only adhering to the bearing of the subordinates confirms the nauseating truth of the burden of law lying solely on the shoulders of a common man.

Is an executioner the dregs of the society? A man at the bottom of the heap? Mo Yan debates the societal hierarchy, grading human existence by classifying stereotypic standards of rank, academia and vocation. The reckless mind-set of the hierarchical superiors towards the lives of those thriving on the margins of the society mapping the foundation of savage reality of societal absurdity pertaining to obsolete-lowly profession at variance with the aristocracy of heritable titles. If there was no executioner to culminate the penalty, then who would carry out the dire job of decapitation? If there was no butcher, then who would put a perfectly cut slice of meat on a decorated plate? If there were no daily workforce, then who would construct the railroads? No job is menial; no job is disgraceful, for all jobs are done by humans meant for their utmost survival. And every trade has its master, its zhuangyuan.

….he was neither a laotaiye nor a yuanwailang—he was the preeminent executioner in the Board of Punishments, a magician with the knife, a peerless decapitator, a man capable of inflicting the cruelest punishments, including some of his own design, a true creative genius…

Zhao Jia was a survivor grabbing every opportune circumstance, the zhuangyuan of the executioners serving for more than four decades at the Board of Punishments. A debt of gratitude released from the humble butcher’s abode, the craft singing the soliloquy of the sandalwood death.


Maoqiang, otherwise known as Cat Opera, is an operatic genre created and developed in Northeast Gaomi Township. The arias are exquisite, the staging unique, the ambience magical; in short, it is the ideal portrayal of life in the township

Meow..Meow…Life’s last opera enthralling the audience with the pomposity of death. A nation in peril, the citizens of Northeast Gaomi forever in revolt, paying the price of being heroic. The commanding policy of Kaiser Wilhelm, the autocracy of Von Ketteler , the operatic songs of mutiny drenched in bloodbaths , Sun Bing , the inheritor of the Maoqiang Opera tradition, a man of prestige among his peers, chose vengeance over the overbeaten virtue of forbearance. Sun Bing, a master performer and a rebellious reformer, rebelled against the German supremacy in China ,the railroads swarmed with the mutinous Boxer Rebellion. Mo Yan depiction of Sun Bing amalgamates the vibrant grandeur of the Opera and the humility of a single erhu retelling the tales of societal subjugation and familial fidelity, chasing the sound and the image of perspicacity and crazed laughter, questioning the validity of the undertaken rebellion. Mo Yan opens each chapter with a sombre aria staging lyrical segments of villain and heroes caught in a lifelong revolutionary opera reciting a resplendent narrative to eager listeners. Sun Bing who acted on the operas stage for most of his life became the spectacular drama himself.

In his exquisite literary pieces, Mo Yan’s treatment to his women protagonist is commendable. Mo Yan’s women irrespective to their muddled sentimentalities and promiscuous play of feminine charm are a potent mixture of fearlessness and empathy.

Having lived up till then among a performing troupe, Meiniang knew all the acrobatic moves for the opera stage, and she had never been schooled in the traditional feminine imperatives of “three obediences”—first to father, then to husband, and finally to son—and the “four virtues” of fidelity, physical charm, propriety, and fine needlework.

Sun Meiniang‘s scheming ways of using her feminine beauty for personal gain, erases the proverbial notion of “happiness” as a spotless sentiment. In a savage land, the virtuous emotion of contentment is soiled by the specks of duplicity. Meiniang’s definition of happiness strikes a balance between physical promiscuity, her undying love for her dieh(father) and the desire to have had the beauty of “lotus feet”. A true gratification in fated circumstance with no moral strings attached.


“Suffering is the road to respectability; danger is the path to prominence onstage.”

In death, the sorrowful cry of the bird oscillates in the benevolence of a dying man. The ordinary citizen, the perennial ‘common man’ swallowing insults and humiliation grasping the vulnerable nonsensical pillars of forbearance and loyalty courts the disaster of annihilation when flouts the authoritative decree. Slowly but sternly, Mo Yan layers complexities of human emotion juxtaposing ironies of tangled relationship and passionate spirit for subsistence in a dramatically charged atmosphere bestowing a humane side to every penned character besieged by their incommodious circumstances and societal status. The magical surrealism of the opera overlapping the savage reality of corporeal punishments and the socio-political ambiguity steeped in the operatic act of immorality and probity. Mo Yan’s protagonists are distinctive role players vacillating in physical and emotional rhythm and rhyme of hunger, passion, desire and bravery. The intricacies of the characters are viewed through a bifocal lens mirroring within the person’s conscience, diminishing the myopic stance of ethics. Qian Ding’s drunken melancholic confession exemplifies the relevant quandary. The fierce melodic opus depicting the stimulus of life and the opulence of death swings in musicality of the modernization and traditionalism chronicles the past and the present. The sorghum rich land of Gaomi Township reeks of sweat, blood, urine, putrefying human flesh and abhorrence of humanity and yet, from these acrid stench emits the sweet fragrance of resilience, devotion, heroism and love for a dignified existence.


The dead are noble, the living worthless….

In the prophetic Maoqiang recitals, Mo Yan raises the imperative question –‘Who is the rightful owner of the titular sagacity of being a dignified individual?’ Those who let go of their virtue of forbearance to seek equitable vengeance or those who bravely accept death penalties entangled within the lawless discrepancies or those whose lives are trampled on the whims and fancies of political supremacy or then those who call themselves the benevolent righteous protectors of the law and the land. Mo Yan chronicles the historical acrobats through an operatic act like narrative configuration, highlighting crucial historical event and figures carving a political dais for an allegorical satire of life and death set during the 1900s China, coursing through the egocentric reign of Empress Dowager Cixi, the intense socio-institutional Wuxu Reform Movement and the influential anti-imperialist Boxer Rebellion. The political history forms a secondary stratum to this illusory musicality ; political satire infusing elements of dark humour to the problematic conundrum of corruption, Imperial tyranny and the vulnerability of individual lives. Each of the Gaomi residents misplaced a part of their identity in their will to survive. The ordinary lives that go unnoticed throughout the perfidious walks of life, find an eternal glory in the cannibalistic brutality of death. Sardonically, the mislaid beauteous solemnity of the living is ultimately found in the opulence of death.

Recounting this glorious work, Mo Yan articulates –“…it is all about the sound….it was the sound that planted the seed for the novel and drove its creation”. The historical romance of human resilience evoked in the rhythmical timbre through the inimitable chorus of Maoqiang opera; merging the mournful strains of nightly train whistles into the surrealism of enchanted fox fairies, the persistent semblance of sound perforating the consciousness amid the ocular pathways created as annotations of the sound. Subsequently, as Mo Yan plants the “seed of his sounds” in his heart, I lock my eyes onto the soaring sorghum stalks scattering the grains of a valiant Gaomi, my ears affixed on the enthralling prose, I unwearyingly immerse in the “kip..kip..kip” of the rat gnawing into the dark corner, the crackling of the tanned skin with the very first bloody incision , the sharpness of the knife puncturing the smoothness of the glistening flesh, the squeals of the pigs, the shrieks of humans, the melancholic arias piercing through societal ambiguity , the excruciating screams of the dying shuddering the bashful clatter of the living , the creaking of the Yama’s Hoop as it tightens around the chastised skull, the rustle of the blood red sandalwood flowers, the uninterrupted bubbling of the sesame oil soaking the five feet tall purple sandalwood stake, the shrill of the ripped beard, the snipping of queues, the murdering of the soul, the orgasmic happiness of Meiniang, the warm blood dripping onto death’s majestic palanquin, the plonking of the bloody knife after the 500th cut , the dramatic folk operas retelling tales of oppression , the thundering sound of gallantry and human fortitude, the galumphing of destined socio-cultural revolution and the resonance of life, as the Gaomi populace knew it. My palpitations strumming to the beat of Tan xiang xing.

4/5 ****

The Heredity of Taste – Sōseki Natsume

The Heredity of Taste

Subtle glimpses of the Russo-Japanese War(1904-05) tiptoed through the melodious passages of Kusamakura(one of Sōseki’s finest works) illuminating Sōseki’s ambivalent outlook towards the war:-
“Civilization, having given individuals their freedom and turned them into wild beasts thereby, then maintains the peace by throwing these unfortunates behind bars. This isn’t real peace; it’s the peace of the zoo, where the tiger lies in his cage glaring out at the gaping sightseers. Should one bar of that cage come loose, the world would fall apart(Kusamakura)”.

The condescending civilization crushing the moral fiber of individualism, the very belief system it nurtures to hail victorious wars. The steam train serpentines its way through civilization shipping thousands of men, the roar of the train thundering the roar of a far distant war generating two worlds, the distance between increasing with the travelers and the consolation of those left behind. As if sketched in a book of incongruity, the chugging train, belching black smoke diminishes the incalculable nothingness between faces, amalgamating the two war-shaped worlds into one frenetic exploration for mislaid faces. The train at Shimbashi Station reveling in the exultant return of the soldiers, descending into madness and celebrations, the cries of “Banzai!” haunting the tears of buoyant eyes. The “serpent of civilization” transporting the fated victim of civilization, circumventing the peculiarity of human nature with circuitous agonistic construal. The idea of ‘pitying love’ nestled in the nascent individualism withstanding the authoritarian ethos of country plunged in war carefully played out in the discourse of socio-political and economic lives of Japanese populace categorizes Sōseki’s anti-war literature into the spiritual disposition of misplaced individuality amid the atrocities of war convalescing in meditative reflection and self-analysis of crucial aspects of human relationships exploring the psychological state of the manufactured circumstances. Sōseki’s prose is subtle, unruffled and yet when the written words conscientiously flow through the picturesque alleys of enlightening imagery, it emits sheer profundity. War, when it does not kill people, ages them.Sōseki questions the grand notion of patriotism dwelling in the legitimacy of human sacrifice? The worth and the magnitude of sacrifice made during war- futile or fruitful? Can honesty be compatible with daily life? Can the threads of sincerity of those few in socio-political power be compatible with thousands of life sacrifices in the name of the country? To die for nation, is it an earnest patriotic gesture or a mockery of individualism thriving in the folly of war and the psychosis of supremacy?

The enchanted gingko tree utterly bare, segregating the ethereal space between the living and the dead, silently watches the last of its golden leaves quivering through the air. The fallen leaves, never to be reattached to the radiant tree swirl beneath it. The profound calm of the stone graves entwined with lotus petals stretched into the quietude of the red pines at the temple entrance. Lost faces, wavering souls, no more hear the beleaguered voices consoling in sorrow and solitude. The feeble ray of foolish hope squirming the vision of “climb out of the ditch and return to your beloved ones”, muted by the chronic anguish “Kō-san wa agatte konai (Kō-san could not climb out of the ditch)”. A mother’s love, a lover’s conviction and bleak lives toppled in loneliness seep through the delicate fragrance of the chrysanthemums colliding against the harshness of a grave. The furrowed pages of a dusty diary exploring the phenomenon of hereditary, the forgotten path of ancestry tracing the mysteries of love and war in the tranquil gift of white chrysanthemums, the purity of beauty commemorating the fragile inheritance of love.

It is wrong to think that absolute tranquility demands a total absence of movement. It is when a single thing moves in a vast expanse of calm that we can perceive the tranquility that stretches beyond it.

Disconcerted by his friend’s death at Port Arthur, the narrator, a researcher of hereditary transmissions, chronicles the mourning process and explores the fragments of a binding love formulating quasi-scientific evolutionary psychosomatic theories tracing the genetic path of unfulfilled love in the Kawakami lineage.

Soldiers are part of war, and they are also the pure product of “the soul of Japan.”….Businessmen are useless to the nation, as are journalists and geishas—and, of course, people like me who spend their lives with their noses in books! Only these living monuments, who have let their beards grow long and who might almost be mistaken for tramps, are absolutely necessary. Not only do they represent the spirit of Japan, but, more than that, they embody a spirit common to all humanity.

Sōseki reminds the reader of the chief fatality of war-‘the soldier’. Sōseki explicates the indispensable represented sprit of a country, the spirit of humanity , the “pure product of the war” and the prime bearer of the horrendous after-math war consequences emphasizing the value of a soldier bestowing utmost respect to those who bravely fight on and off the battlefield. Why shouldn’t we honor the soldiers more than the victories of the land? Why shouldn’t we honor the bereaved family left behind to endure a life-long torment? Koichi’s mother yearning for the impossibility of a possible daughter-in-law to shed a speck of her painful memories. A loving friend searching for a tanned face among the crowd. The numerous hopeful hearts anxiously waiting for the arrival of their loved ones. The worth of soldiers regardless of whether the triumphant flag was waved or they make it to the train station or find an eternal solace in a pitiless ditch ascends the scale of nobility admiring the mental discipline amid a war-zone, the inconceivable limits of their endurance and the magnitude of their sacrifice.

….there is not the slightest crumb of humanity in a war cry. The war cry is “Aaah!” In a war cry there is no sarcasm or common sense. It contains no good or evil. It is as devoid of falsehood as it is of any attempt to manipulate. It is, from beginning to end, only “Aaah!” The emotion that it crystalizes, explodes and sends out shock waves in all directions; that is what causes this “Aaah!” to resonate. It has not that sense of sinister augury conveyed in expressions like “Banzai!,” “Help!,” or even “I am going to kill you!” In other words, “Aaah!” is mind; “Aaah!” is soul; “Aaah!” is humanity; “Aaah!” is truth

The exuberance of “Banzai!” floats beyond the victorious headlines of a newspaper, the joyous emotion spilling on to the overwhelmed heart of a mother being caressed in the warmth of her son’s tearful eyes. The frantic loneliness and anguish of death drowned in the singular emotion of “May you live a thousand years!”. The calmness of such extreme declaration is distilled in the deadness of a war cry. The unfathomable and illimitable dimensions of a simple utterance simultaneously expressed by tens of thousands soldiers explodes the sense of ominous presage crystallizing the truth of staggered institution of life and death between the free world and war hell. The Heredity of Taste being the single anti-war text penned by Sōseki, confirms Japan’s maturity of a modern nation and yet, it juvenile egotistical hunger for sovereign supremacy at the cost of individualism. The Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) established Japan as a victorious nation enabling its entry into the world power domain. The singularity of a war cry resonating natural sincerity of shackled civilization raised numerous anti-war voices dominant in the Japanese literary scene. The loudest decibel resonated in the anti-war poem penned by one of Japan’s celebrated poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942). Akiko’s motivation for writing came solely from a personal anguish, dedicated to her younger brother Soichi who was then in the Japanese army battling at Port Arthur. The overpowering heartfelt verses depict Sōseki’s own anti-war deliberations.

Beloved, You Must Not Die (Kimi Shinitamou koto nakare,1905)

Ah, my brother, I weep for you.
Beloved, you must not die
You, the last born,
And so most cherished-
did our parents teach you to grasp a sword,
to kill another man?
Did they bring you up to twenty-four
To murder, and then die?

You, proud master of an old store
in the merchant city of Sakai,
heir to your father’s name –
beloved, you must not die.
What is it to you whether
the walls of Port Arthur tumble or they stand?
Why should you care?
Such things are not in the laws of a merchant family.

Beloved, you , must not die,
How could our great Emperor,
whose wondrous heart is so deep,
not to battle himself
but still ask others top spill their blood,
to die like beasts,
and to think those deaths a glory?

Ah, my brother, you must not
die in a war.

Father dead last fall,
Mother in her grief had to face
the pain of your being drafted,
of being left alone to watch our home,
In this great and peaceful reign
her white hairs have increased.

Your new wife, young and lovely, lies
and weeps behind the shop curtains.
Have you forgotten her? Do you think of her?
Let alone after being wed less than ten months,
Think of her maiden heart!
Besides you, ah, who, in all the world can she rely on?
Beloved, you must not die!

** (the poem is translated by Dr. Janine Beichman and the excerpt is taken from ‘The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature: From 1945 to the Present (Modern Asian Literature Series) (vol. 2)’)
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4/5****