“THE LAST OF THE JUST”: ANDRE SCHWARZ-BART NOVEL FROM 1959

April 17, 2011 at 9:40 am | Posted in Art, Books, History, Judaica, Literary, Philosophy | Leave a comment

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“The Last of The Just”

Lamedvavniks and Tzadikim Nistarim

According to Jewish tradition, 36 “just men” are born in every generation to take the burden of the world’s suffering upon themselves.

The Tzadikim Nistarim (hidden righteous ones) or Lamed Vav Tzadikim (36 righteous ones), often abbreviated to Lamed Vav(niks)[a], refers to 36 Righteous people, a notion rooted within the more mystical dimensions of Judaism. The singular form is Tzadik Nistar.

Origins

The source is the Talmud itself, explained as follows:

As a mystical concept, the number 36 is even more intriguing. It is said that at all times there are 36 special people in the world, and that were it not for them, all of them, if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. The two Hebrew letters for 36 are the lamed, which is 30, and the vav, which is 6. Therefore, these 36 are referred to as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim. This widely-held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shechinah,” the Divine Presence (Tractate Sanhedrin 97b; Tractate Sukkah 45b).[1]

Their purpose

Mystical Hasidic Judaism as well as other segments of Judaism believe that there is the Jewish tradition of 36 righteous people whose role in life is to justify the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God. Tradition holds that their identities are unknown to each other and that, if one of them comes to a realization of their true purpose then they may die and their role is immediately assumed by another person:

The Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim are also called the Nistarim (“concealed ones”). In our folk tales, they emerge from their self-imposed concealment and, by the mystic powers, which they possess, they succeed in averting the threatened disasters of a people persecuted by the enemies that surround them. They return to their anonymity as soon as their task is accomplished, ‘concealing’ themselves once again in a Jewish community wherein they are relatively unknown. The lamed-vavniks, scattered as they are throughout the Diaspora, have no acquaintance with one another. On very rare occasions, one of them is ‘discovered’ by accident, in which case the secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do not themselves know that they are ones of the 36. In fact, tradition has it that should a person claim to be one of the 36, that is proof positive that they are certainly not one. Since the 36 are each exemplars of anavah, (“humility”), having such a virtue would preclude against one’s self-proclamation of being among the special righteous. The 36 are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36.[1]

Lamedvavniks

Lamedvavnik is the Yiddish term for one of the 36 humble righteous ones or Tzadikim mentioned in kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. According to this teaching, at any given time there are at least 36 holy Jews in the world who are Tzadikim. These holy people are hidden; i.e., nobody knows who they are. According to some versions of the story, they themselves may not know who they are. For the sake of these 36 hidden saints, God preserves the world even if the rest of humanity has degenerated to the level of total barbarism. This is similar to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Hebrew Bible, where God told Abraham that he would spare the city of Sodom if there was a quorum of at least 10 righteous men. Since nobody knows who the Lamedvavniks are, not even themselves, every Jew should act as if he or she might be one of them; i.e., lead a holy and humble life and pray for the sake of fellow human beings. It is also said that one of these 36 could potentially be the Jewish Messiah if the world is ready for them to reveal themselves. Otherwise, they live and die as an ordinary person. Whether the person knows they are the potential Messiah is debated.

The term lamedvavnik is derived from the Hebrew letters Lamed (L) and Vav (V), whose numerical value adds up to 36. The “nik” at the end is a Russian or Yiddish suffix indicating “a person who…” (As in “Beatnik“; in English, this would be something like calling them “The Thirty-Sixers”.) The number 36 is twice 18.

In gematria (a form of Jewish numerology), the number 18 stands for “life”, because the Hebrew letters that spell chai, meaning “living”, add up to 18. Because 36 = 2×18, it represents “two lives”.

In some Hassidic stories, disciples consider their Rebbes and other religious figures to be among the Lamedvavniks. It is also possible for a Lamedvavnik to reveal themselves as such, although that rarely happens—a Lamedvavnik’s status as an exemplar of humility would preclude it. More often, it is the disciples who speculate.

These beliefs are articulated in the works of Max Brod, and some (like Jorge Luis Borges) believe the concept to have originated in the Book of Genesis 18:26

And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.[2]

Notes

  • a In Hebrew numerals, 30 is lamed  and 6 is vav‎‎. Together they yield 36.

References in popular culture

  • The mystery thriller novel The Righteous Men by Sam Bourne deals with the murder of the righteous ones, one by one, and solving the murders.
  • In “Three Septembers and a January,” from Neil Gaiman‘s comic The Sandman, Death remarks: “they say that the world rests on the backs of 36 living saints – 36 unselfish men and women. Because of them the world continues to exist. They are the secret kings and queens of this world.”

References

  1. 1.                              a b Zwerin, Rabbi Raymond A. (September 15, 2002 / 5763). “THE 36 – WHO ARE THEY?”. Temple Sinai, Denver: americanet.com. Archived from the original on Jan 18, 2003. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  2. 2.                              “Genesis » Chapter 18”. bible.ort.org. Retrieved 3 August 2010.

The Last of the Just

Andre Schwarz-Bart (Author)

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Schwarz-Bart’s 1959 novel is a chronicle of Jewish persecution beginning in England in 1105 and ending with the Holocaust. This book was a huge hit when first released, eventually being translated into several languages. It is both a historical document and a compelling piece of fiction.

Product Description

According to Jewish tradition, 36 “just men” are born in every generation to take the burden of the world’s suffering upon themselves. This book tells the story of two Jews, divided by eight centuries, who are persecuted to death, becoming part of the catastrophic history of the Jewish people.

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook TP; First Edition
  • January 31, 2000
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781585670161
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585670161
  • ASIN: 1585670162

In this classic of 1959 André Schwarz-Bart reworks the Jewish legend of the Lamed Vavs, the handful (36 in most versions of the story) of Just or Righteous Men who live among the Jews in every generation and who provide the merit on which the world depends. The tradition dates back to the 5th century Babylonian Talmud. It was elaborated by kabbalistic Jews in the 16th and 17th century and by Hassidic Jews in the 18th century: the Lamed Vavs are humble men and unnoticed as special by their fellow Jews. At times of great peril, so this version has it, “a Lamed Vavnik makes a dramatic appearance, using his hidden powers to defeat the enemies of Israel or mankind” (Encyclopedia Judaica).

Schwarz-Bart was born in France and lost most of the members of his family in the Holocaust.

Schwarz-Bart imagines the story of the Levys, one family in which the role of the Just Man was hereditary. They have suffered death down the ages, beginning with the massacre of the Jews of York in 1185. In later generations this wandering Jewish family suffers at the hands of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions; they are expelled from one area after another; the Cossacks add their contribution; and when we come to the late 19th century, the family leaves its home in Zemyock in Russian Poland and settles in Germany. At this stage there are three generations: at the head of it is Mordecai, the venerable patriarch, who accepts that all suffering is part of God’s will and who tells his family that there is no point in putting up any resistance. His son Benjamin thinks there is an escape in trying to merge into German society; but the Patriarch tells the story of the Just Men to his frail and scholarly little grandson, Ernie. Ernie lives in his own intensely active and romantic imagination, and, with the arrival of the Nazis in 1933, he is convinced that he is to be the next Just Man.

The remaining two thirds of the book deal with Ernie’s life from that time onwards. There are terrible scenes of brutality – gangs of Nazis attacking Jews as they go to the synagogue, atrocious bullying of the Jewish children by a teacher and by their fellow-students. Ernie’s life is full of suffering and strengthens his conviction that the calling of being Just Man has indeed fallen upon him. The scenes of cruelty are interspersed with the vivid poetical and mystical nature of Ernie’s imagination. With one terrible exception when he is in utter despair – a touch of human nature which rescues the portrait of him from being just too accepting – he identifies with suffering everywhere, not just among the Jews; he is open to the beauties of the earth amid all the horrors that rage upon its surface. It is this lyrical element of the book which sets it apart from so many other accounts of what happened to the Jews under Nazi persecution.

Before the gates of the prison that was Nazi Germany finally slammed shut, the Levy family managed to emigrate to France, only to be trapped there when the war broke out. Ernie volunteers for the French army, though in a non-combatant role as a stretcher-bearer. The horrors of war are described, not with the excruciating detail with which the author had dealt with the brutality in Germany, but with Voltairian brevity and irony.

After the defeat of the French Army, Ernie manages to get into Vichy France. The instinct for survival overcomes for a while his mission to become a martyr: he converts, he attends Mass, he fornicates, he nearly begins to lose his Jewish appearance; but in his ever fertile fantasy he sees himself as a dog and sometimes literally behaves like one. Anyway, his disguise does not work: he is recognized as a Jew, and with that moment he recovers for himself his Jewish identity.

He makes his way back to the Jewish quarter of Paris where he finds four devout old men from Zemyock who have not yet been deported. Before his own deportation, old Mordecai had told them that he believed his grandson to be one of the Just Men. Ernie is now treated by them with the utmost reverence, and he becomes conscious again of his destiny.

But what will drive him to seek entry into the hell of Drancy and the extinction that awaits in Auschwitz is not the consciousness that he is one of the Just Men, but something altogether less mystical, more human. At one point in the heart-wrenching last pages, Ernie`s compassion makes him tell the terrified children in the cattle-truck that they will soon be in the Kingdom where “an eternal joy will crown your heads; cheerfulness and gaiety will come and greet you, and all the pains and all the moans will run away.” He is reproved by an old woman for not telling them the truth. He replies, “There is no room for truth here”. So will they find the truth in the next world? Will they find an answer to the question that, in his dreams, he heard a fiddler sing:

“Oh, can we rise as far as heaven
To ask God why things are as they are?”

The Last of the Just  

In 1959 The Last of the Just won the Prix Goncourt, the top literary award of France (the French Booker). A sweeping epic of a thousand years of Jewish life in Europe, the novel traces the fortunes and tragedies of one family with a special heritage. A member of each generation of the family is one of the 36 just men that Jewish tradition claims feel the suffering and pain of all the living, and without whom the world could not go on. Since the Jewish word for 36 is lamed vov, these men are often called Lamed Vovniks.

This strange and singular honor was attributed to the Levy family in 1085 following an attempt by the Bishop William of Nordhouse to massacre the Jewish citizens of York. To save his people, the Rabbi Yom Tov Levy leads them to an abandoned tower where they withhold a siege of six days by the local Christians. Rather than succumb to the indignities of their captors, the Jews decide to take their own lives. As was done in Massada a thousand years earlier, the Rabbi takes on the role of blessing and killing each of the members of his community and then taking his own life. Some of the children, including the rabbi’s son Solomon, survive. When Solomon becomes a man he has a vision from God where he is told that, because of his father’s noble act, beginning with him, each generation of his family will contain one of the Lamed-Vovniks.

The first 140 pages of this book presents a history of the Levy family, their lineage of Lamed-Vovniks, and their fame in the Jewish community. The last three hundred pages tells the story of Ernie Levy, who is born in the Twentieth Century, during the events leading up to and in the Holocaust.

Sweeping in scope and yet focused on the life of a single man, this book presents the joys of Jewish community life and the accomodations they make to survive being a European minority marked for extermination by the Christian majority. It presents European history from a Jewish perspective and provides a detailed background to the insanity that is the Holocaust.

The point of view is that of a family of holy men whose compassion and wisdom gives the story great depth and understanding. Sadly, the Levy Lamed-Vovniks are all male. While the women of the story are well portrayed and strong personalities, they are never the main characters so the book has a decidedly male perspective. 

There are in the world 36 `just men’ that take on the suffering of the world, that are the reasons God allows the world to continue. There are among these men, some number of `unknown just’ who see the world differently from most of us.

That when one of these `unknown just’ dies his soul is so cold that God must hold him in his fingers for a thousand years so that he can open to paradise.

Ernie Levy in The Last of the Just is one of those men. A thousand years of history, two thousand years of suffering are all concentrated in the story of one boy, the movement of a family from Poland, to Germany, to France, to extermination. The story of a people, the story of a family, the story of a man, the story of the twentieth century.

The Last of the Just

Since the Palestinians are today’s “Jews”, “The Last of the Just” should impel all Jews to support the Palestinians.

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ON THE LIMITS OF MAN’S ABILITY TO KNOW THE NATURE OF REALITY: SZYMBORSKA POEM

April 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Posted in Art, Books, Literary, Philosophy | Leave a comment

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View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems

Wislawa Szymborska (Author)

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition
  • May 26, 1995
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780156002165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156002165

“We’re extremely fortunate”

by Wislawa Szymborska

We’re extremely fortunate
A poem by Wislawa Szymborska

1996: Widok z ziarnkiem piasku (“View with a Grain of Sand”)

We’re extremely fortunate
not to know precisely
the kind of world we live in.

One would have
to live a long, long time,
unquestionably longer
than the world itself.

Get to know other worlds,
if only for comparison.

Rise above the flesh,
which only really knows
how to obstruct
and make trouble.

For the sake of research,
the big picture
and definitive conclusions,
one would have to transcend time,
in which everything scurries and whirls.

From that perspective,
one might as well bid farewell
to incidents and details.

The counting of weekdays
would inevitably seem to be
a senseless activity;

dropping letters in the mailbox
a whim of foolish youth;

the sign “No Walking on the Grass”
a symptom of lunacy.

Major works:

  • 1952: Dlatego żyjemy (“That’s Why We Are Alive”)
  • 1954: Pytania zadawane sobie (“Questioning Yourself”)
  • 1957: Wołanie do Yeti (“Calling Out to Yeti”)
  • 1962: Sól (“Salt”)
  • 1966: 101 wierszy (“101 Poems”)
  • 1967: Sto pociech (“No End of Fun”)
  • 1967: Poezje wybrane (“Selected Poetry”)
  • 1972: Wszelki wypadek (“Could Have”)
  • 1976: Wielka liczba (“A Large Number”)
  • 1986: Ludzie na moście (“People on the Bridge”)
  • 1989: Poezje: Poems, bilingual Polish-English edition
  • 1992: Lektury nadobowiązkowe (“Non-required Reading”)
  • 1993: Koniec i początek (“The End and the Beginning”)
  • 1996: Widok z ziarnkiem piasku (“View with a Grain of Sand”)
  • 1997: Sto wierszy – sto pociech (“100 Poems – 100 Happinesses”)
  • 2002: Chwila (“Moment”)
  • 2003: Rymowanki dla dużych dzieci (“Rhymes for Big Kids”)
  • 2005: Dwukropek (“Colon”)
  • 2009: Tutaj (“Here”)

Prizes and awards:

View with a Grain of SandSelected Poems

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TECHNOLOGY CLUSTERS: THE BICYCLE TYPEWRITER AND TELEPHONE DESCRIBED IN THE MOVIE “HEAVEN CAN WAIT”

April 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Posted in Art, Film, History, Science & Technology | Leave a comment

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HEAVEN CAN WAIT

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch (1943)

Mademoiselle:

In your papa’s time, papa kiss mama and then marry.

But this is 1887! Time of bicycle, the typewriter has arrive, soon everybody speak over telephone, and people have new idea of value of kiss.

What was bad yesterday is lot of fun today. There is a wonderful saying in France: “Les baisers sont comme des bonbons qu’on mange parce qu’ils sont bons.” This mean: “Kiss is like candy. You eat candy only for the beautiful taste, and this is enough reason to eat candy.”

Henry Van Cleve:

You mean I can kiss a girl once…

Mademoiselle:

Ten times! Twenty times! And no obligation.

Cast & Crew:

Ernst Lubitsch Director

Gene Tierney Martha Strabel Van Cleve

Don Ameche Henry Van Cleve

Charles Coburn Grandfather

Marjorie Main Mrs. Strabel

Laird Cregar His Excellency

Spring Byington Bertha Van Cleve

Allyn Joslyn Albert Van Cleve

Eugene Pallette E. F. Strabel

Signe Hasso Mademoiselle

Louis Calhern Randolph Van Cleve

HEAVEN CAN WAIT

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SYMBOLIC WOUNDS: POLISH CINEMA

March 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Art, Books, Film, History, Philosophy, Research | Leave a comment

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Landscape After Battle (1970)

Krajobraz po bitwie (original title)

Director:

Andrzej Wajda

Writers:

Andrzej Brzozowski, Andrzej Wajda, and 1 more credit »

Stars:

Daniel Olbrychski, Stanislawa Celinska and Aleksander Bardini

Storyline

Film opens with the mad rush of haphazard freedom as the concentration camps are liberated. Men are trying to grab food, change clothes, bury their tormentors they find alive. Then they are herded into other camps as the Allies try to devise policy to control the situation. A young poet who cannot quite find himself in this new situation, meets a headstrong Jewish young girl who wants him to run off with her, to the West. He cannot cope with her growing demands for affection, while still harboring the hatred for the Germans and disdain for his fellow men who quickly revert to petty enmities.

In the DVD version of that classic of Polish cinema, Wajda’s “Landscape after Battle,” there’s a “Special Features” interview with one of the participants who mentions the Polish writer Melchior Wankowicz who supposedly says somewhere that the purpose of Polish art is to reopen old wounds so they might heal rightly for the first time.

Bruno Bettelheim, himself a Jewish camp survivor, speaks of “symbolic wounds.”

Melchior Wańkowicz

Melchior Wańkowicz (10 January 1892 – 10 September 1974)

Melchior Wańkowicz (10 January 1892 – 10 September 1974) was a Polish writer, journalist and publisher. He is most famous for his reporting for the Polish Armed Forces in the West during World War II and writing a book about the battle of Monte Cassino.

Biography

Melchior Wańkowicz was born on 10 January 1892 in Kalużyce near Minsk. He attended school in Warsaw, then the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, which he graduated from in 1922. An activist in the Polish independence movement, he was an officer in the Riflemen Union (Związek Strzelecki). During the First World War he fought in the Polish I Corps in Russia under General Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki.

After the war he worked as a journalist, for a time working as a chief of the press department in the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 1926 he founded a publishing agency, “Rój”. He also worked in the advertising business, coining a popular slogan for the advertisement of sugar – “cukier krzepi” (sugar strengthens). He wrote three books during the interwar period, all of them gaining him increasing fame and popularity. A few decades later he coined another famous slogan – “LOTem bliżej” (“closer with LOT”), advertising the Polish LOT airlines.

After the German invasion of Poland he lived for a while in Romania, where he wrote about the events of the Polish September. Later, from 1943 to 1946 he undertook what would be perhaps his most famous endeavour – he become a war correspondent for the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Later he wrote an account of the battle of Monte Cassino, his most famous book. One of his daughters, Krystyna, died as a member of Polish resistance Armia Krajowa during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

From 1949 to 1958 he lived in the United States, afterwards returning to communist Poland. He opposed the communist regime, writing and lecturing about the Polish Forces in the West (whose participation was minimized by the government, which tried to emphasize the role of the Soviet-aligned Berling Army). His most known work is a three tome book about the battle of Monte Cassino, a tribute to the soldiers of the Anders Army – a book that was published in Poland only in a shortened, censored form (until the fall of communism in 1990).

After he cosigned the letter of 34 in 1964, protesting against the censorship, he was repressed by the government – the publication of his works was prohibited, and he was himself arrested, charged with slander of Poland[1] and “spreading anti-Polish propaganda abroad” (partially due to the publication of some of his works by Radio Free Europe,[2] but the chief evidence was a private letter to his daughter living in the USA[1]) and sentenced to three years of imprisonment. However the sentence was never executed, and he was rehabilitated in 1990, after the fall of communism in Poland.[2]

Wańkowicz died on 10 September 1974.

Works

  • Anoda-katoda
  • Bitwa o Monte Cassino (t. 1-3 1945-47)
  • C.O.P – ognisko siły (1938)
  • Czerwień i Amarant
  • De profundis
  • Drogą do Urzędowa (1955)
  • Dwie prawdy (połączone w jednym wydaniu dwie rzeczy: “Hubalczycy” i “Westerplatte”)
  • Dzieje rodziny Korzeniewskich
  • Hubalczycy (1959)
  • Karafka La Fontaine’a (t. 1 1972, t. 2 pośm. 1980)
  • Kaźń Mikołaja II
  • Klub trzeciego miejsca (1949)
  • Kundlizm (1947)
  • Monte Cassino (skróc. wyd. krajowe Bitwy o Monte Cassino, 1957)
  • Na tropach Smętka (1936)
  • Od Stołpców po Kair (1969)
  • Opierzona rewolucja (1934)
  • Polacy i Ameryka
  • Prosto od krowy (1965)
  • Przez cztery klimaty 1912-1972 (1972)
  • Reportaże zagraniczne
  • Strzępy epopei
  • Szczenięce lata (1934)
  • Szkice spod Monte Cassino (1969)
  • Szpital w Cichiniczach (1925)
  • Sztafeta (1939)
  • Tędy i owędy (1961)
  • Tworzywo (Nowy Jork 1954, wyd. kraj. 1960)
  • W kościołach Meksyku (1927)
  • W ślady Kolumba (cz. 1 Atlantyk-Pacyfik 1967, cz. 2 Królik i oceany 1968, cz. 3 W pępku Ameryki 1969)
  • Walczący Gryf (1964)
  • Westerplatte (1959)
  • Wojna i pióro (1974)
  • Wrzesień żagwiący (1947)
  • Ziele na kraterze (1951, wyd. krajowe 1957)
  • Zupa na gwoździu (1967, wyd. 3 pt. Zupa na gwoździu – doprawiona 1972)

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has written introductions, footnotes, etc., to:

  • Melchior Wankowicz, Reportaze zagraniczne (Reportage from Abroad), Krakow, 1981, ISBN 83-08-00488-1
  • Series: Dziela emigracyjne i przedwojenne Melchiora Wankowicza (8 titles), Warsaw, 1989–1995
  • Korespondencja Krystyny i Melchiora Wankowiczow (Correspondence between Krystyna and Melchior Wankowicz), Warsaw, 1992, ISBN 83-85443-21-5
  • Jerzy Giedroyc and Melchior Wankowicz, Listy 1945-1963 (Series: Archiwum Kultury; correspondence between Jerzy Giedroyc and Melchior Wankowicz), Warsaw, 2000, ISBN 83-07-02779-9
  • King i Krolik. Korespondencja Zofii i Melchiora Wankowiczow (correspondence between Zofia and Melchior Wankowicz), Warsaw, 2004, ISBN 83-7163-496-X

Legacy

A private journalism school on ulica Nowy Świat in Warsaw, the Higher School of Journalism, founded in 1995, is named after Wańkowicz.[1]

Notes

  1. 1. a b “A Symptom”, TIME, Friday, Nov. 20, 1964
  2. 2. a b Melchior Wańkowicz, biography in “Tworzywo”, an online monthly of Wyższa Szkoła Dziennikarska im. Melchiora Wańkowicza (Polish)

References

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“ROMAJI DIARY”: ISHIKAWA TAKUBOKU BOOK

March 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Art, Asia, Books, Japan, Literary | Leave a comment

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Romaji Diary and Sad Toys

Takuboku Ishikawa (Author)

Sanford Goldstein (Editor, Translator)

Seishi Shinoda (Editor, Translator)

About the Author

Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912) was the son of a Zen priest. A middle-school dropout, he was raised in rural Shibumi and emigrated to Tokyo as a young man. In Tokyo, he frequented literary circles and began to write poetry and fiction and to support himself as a journalist. He later worked as a substitute teacher and journalist in northern Honshu and Hokkaido before returning to Tokyo. He died, in poverty, from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-seven.

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
  • November 2000
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804832536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804832533

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JAPANESE POET ISHIKAWA TAKUBOKU(1886-1912): “KANASHIKI GANGU” “SAD TOYS”

March 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Posted in Art, Asia, Books, Japan, Literary | Leave a comment

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ISHIKAWA TAKUBOKU (1886-1912)

Tanka Poet

Takuboku Ishikawa (Ishikawa Takuboku, February 20, 1886 – April 13, 1912) was a Japanese poet. He died of tuberculosis. Well known as both a tanka and ‘modern-style’ (shintaishi or simply shi) or ‘free-style’ (jiyūshi) poet, he began as a member of the Myōjō group of naturalist poets but later joined the “socialistic” group of Japanese poets and renounced naturalism.

Major works

His major works were two volumes of tanka poems plus his diaries:

Timeline

Ishikawa Takuboku, ca. 1900

  • 1886 – Born at Joko Temple, Hinoto-mura (presently named Hinoto, Tamayama-mura), Minami-Iwate-gun, Iwate Prefecture, to Ittei, the father, who was the priest of the temple, and Katsu, the mother.
  • 1887 – Moved to Shibutami-mura (presently named Shibutami, Tamayama-mura)
  • 1891 – Attended Shibutami Elementary School (4 years)
  • 1895 – Attended Morioka Upper Elementary School (2 years)
  • 1898 – Attended Morioka Middle School
  • 1899 – Published literary booklet “Choji-kai”, printed by hand with method called hectograph
  • 1900 – Formed self-study group “Union Club” in order to learn English. First and second issues of “Choji Magazine” were published. Fell in love with Setsuko Horiai who was a student at Morioka Girls’ Middle School.
  • 1901 – Published the third issue of “Mikazuki” (crescent moon), a magazine for circulating, and the first issue of “Nigitama.” His tankas appeared on Iwate Nippo (news paper) under the pen name of “Suiko”, the first public appearance of his works.
  • 1902 – His tankas appeared on “Myōjō”, a literary magazine, under the pen name of “Hakuhin”. Dropped out of Morioka Middle School because of his aspiration for literature. Went to Tokyo and made the acquaintances of Tekkan and Akiko Yosano.
  • 1903 – Went home to Shibutami. Serial articles “Ideas of Wagner” appeared on Iwate Nippo. Poem ”Shucho” (sorrowful melodies) was appeared on “Myōjō”. The pen name of “Takuboku” was used for the first time. In November, joined the circle of poets “Shinshisha”.
  • 1904 – Serial articles “Senun Yoroku” (personal memorandum of war time) appeared on Iwate Nippo. This was right after the outbreak of Russo-Japanese War.
  • 1905 – The first collection of poems “Akogare” (admiration) was published by Odajima Shobo. Got married to HORIAI Setsuko. Published literary magazine “Sho-Tenchi” (small world).
  • 1906 – Became a substitute teacher at Shibutami Upper Elementary School. Novel “Kumo wa Tensai dearu” (the clouds are geniuses) was written, which was never published during his lifetime. Novel “Soretsu” (funeral procession) appeared on literary magazine “Myōjō” (December issue of 1906).
  • 1907 – Became a substitute teacher at Hakodate Yayoi Elementary School, and a freelance reporter at Hokodate Nichinichi Shinbun (news paper). There at the Hakodate Yayoi Elementary School, he met Chieko Tachibana, who he was instantly awestruck by her beauty. Although Takuboku only encountered Chieko in person twice, she left a lasting impression on him, and 22 of the tanka written in “Wasuregataki-Hitobito” in “Ichiaku-no-Suna” were written about Chieko Tachibana. Later despite efforts to visit Chieko in her home in Sapporo, to pursue courtship, he had learned from her father that she had recently been married. Because of the great fire in Hakodate, he lost both jobs and left Hakodate. Employed at places like Hokumon Shinpo or Otaru Nippo (publishers of news paper)
  • 1908 – Employed at Kushiro Shinbun (news paper), wrote “Benifude-dayori”. Moved to Hongo, Tokyo in spring.
  • 1909 – Employed at Asahi Shinbun as a proof reader. Issued literary magazine “Subaru” as a publisher.
  • 1910 – First collection of tankas “Ichiaku-no-Suna” (a fistful of sand) was published by Shinonome-do Shoten.
  • 1911 – Moved to Koishikawa because of health reasons.
  • 1912 – In March, his mother Katsu died. He himself died of tuberculosis on April 13, being looked after by his friend Bokusui Wakayama and his wife Setsuko, at age of 27. After his death, his second collection of tankas “Kanashiki Gangu” (grieving toys) was published by Shinonome-do Shoten.
  • 1926 – In August, his grave was erected by both Miyazaki Ikuu, his brother-in-law, who was also a poet, and Okada Kenzo, the chief of Hakodate Library.
  • 1988 – The main-belt asteroid 4672 Takuboku (1988 HB) is named in his honor.

References

  • Ishikawa Takuboku, On Knowing Oneself Too Well, translated by Tamae K. Prindle, Syllabic Press, © 2010. ISBN 978-0615345628
  • Ishikawa Takuboku, Romaji Diary and Sad Toys, translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda. Rutland, Charles E. Tuttle Co. 1985.
  • Ishikawa Takuboku, Takuboku: Poems to Eat, translated by Carl Sesar, Tokyo. Kodansha International, 1966.
  • Ueda, Makoto, Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature, Stanford University Press © 1983 ISBN 0-8047-1166-6 [Ishikawa Takuboku is one of the eight poets profiled in the book, with forty two pages devoted to him. There are nine “free-style” poems and thirty one tanka included in the commentary.]

ISHIKAWA TAKUBOKU (1886-1912)

Tanka Poet

“Kanashiki Gangu”

悲しき玩具

一握の砂以後

石川啄木
呼吸(いき)すれば、
胸の中(うち)にて鳴る音あり。
凩(こがらし)よりもさびしきその音(おと)!

眼(め)閉(と)づれど、
心にうかぶ何もなし。
さびしくも、また、眼をあけるかな。

途中にてふと気が変り、
つとめ先を休みて、今日も、
河岸(かし)をさまよへり。

咽喉(のど)がかわき、
まだ起きてゐる果物屋(くだものや)を探しに行きぬ。
秋の夜ふけに。

遊びに出(で)て子供かへらず、
取り出して
走らせて見る玩具(おもちや)の機関車。

本を買ひたし、本を買ひたしと、
あてつけのつもりではなけれど、
妻に言ひてみる。

旅を思ふ夫(をっと)の心!
叱(しか)り、泣く、妻子(つまこ)の心!
朝の食卓!

家(いへ)を出て五町ばかりは、
用のある人のごとくに
歩いてみたれど――

痛む歯をおさへつつ、
日が赤赤(あかあか)と、
冬の靄(もや)の中にのぼるを見たり。

いつまでも歩いてゐねばならぬごとき
思ひ湧(わ)き来(き)ぬ、
深夜の町町(まちまち)。

なつかしき冬の朝かな。
湯をのめば、
湯気(ゆげ)がやはらかに、顔にかかれり。

何(なん)となく、
今朝(けさ)は少しく、わが心明るきごとし。
手の爪(つめ)を切る。

うっとりと
本の挿絵(さしゑ)に眺め入(い)り、
煙草(たばこ)の煙吹きかけてみる。

途中にて乗換(のりかへ)の電車なくなりしに、
泣かうかと思ひき。
雨も降りてゐき。

二晩(ふたばん)おきに、
夜(よ)の一時頃に切通(きりどほし)の坂を上(のぼ)りしも――
勤(つと)めなればかな。

しっとりと
酒のかをりにひたりたる
脳の重みを感じて帰る。

今日(けふ)もまた酒のめるかな!
酒のめば
胸のむかつく癖(くせ)を知りつつ。

何事か今我つぶやけり。
かく思ひ、
目をうちつぶり、酔(ゑ)ひを味(あじは)ふ。

すっきりと酔ひのさめたる心地(ここち)よさよ!
夜中に起きて、
墨(すみ)を磨(す)るかな。

真夜中の出窓(でまど)に出(い)でて、
欄干(らんかん)の霜に
手先を冷(ひ)やしけるかな。

どうなりと勝手になれといふごとき
わがこのごろを
ひとり恐(おそ)るる。

手も足もはなればなれにあるごとき
ものうき寝覚(ねざめ)!
かなしき寝覚!

朝な朝な
撫(な)でてかなしむ、
下にして寝た方(はう)の腿(もも)のかろきしびれを。

曠野(あらの)ゆく汽車のごとくに、
このなやみ、
ときどき我の心を通る。

みすぼらしき郷里(くに)の新聞ひろげつつ、
誤植(ごしよく)ひろへり。
今朝のかなしみ。

誰(たれ)か我を
思ふ存分(ぞんぶん)叱(しか)りつくる人あれと思ふ。
何(なん)の心ぞ。

何がなく
初恋人(はつこひびと)のおくつきに詣(まう)づるごとし。
郊外に来(き)ぬ。

なつかしき
故郷にかへる思ひあり、
久し振(ぶ)りにて汽車に乗りしに。

新しき明日(あす)の来(きた)るを信ずといふ
自分の言葉に
嘘(うそ)はなけれど――

考へれば、
ほんとに欲(ほ)しと思ふこと有るやうで無し。
煙管(きせる)をみがく。

今日ひょいと山が恋しくて
山に来(き)ぬ。
去年腰掛(こしか)けし石をさがすかな。

朝寝して新聞読む間(ま)なかりしを
負債(ふさい)のごとく
今日も感ずる。

よごれたる手をみる――
ちゃうど
この頃の自分の心に対(むか)ふがごとし。

よごれたる手を洗ひし時の
かすかなる満足が
今日の満足なりき。

年明けてゆるめる心!
うっとりと
来(こ)し方(かた)をすべて忘れしごとし。

昨日まで朝から晩(ばん)まで張りつめし
あのこころもち
忘れじと思へど。

戸の面(も)には羽子(はね)突(つ)く音す。
笑う声す。
去年の正月にかへれるごとし。

何となく、
今年はよい事あるごとし。
元日の朝、晴れて風無し。

腹の底より欠伸(あくび)もよほし
ながながと欠伸してみぬ、
今年の元日。

いつの年も、
似たよな歌を二つ三つ
年賀の文(ふみ)に書いてよこす友。

正月の四日(よっか)になりて
あの人の
年(ねん)に一度の葉書(はがき)も来にけり。

世におこなひがたき事のみ考へる
われの頭よ!
今年もしかるか。

人がみな
同じ方角(はうがく)に向いて行(ゆ)く。
それを横より見てゐる心。

いつまでか、
この見飽(みあ)きたる懸額(かけがく)を
このまま懸けておくことやらむ。

ぢりぢりと、
蝋燭(らふそく)の燃えつくるごとく、
夜となりたる大晦日(おほみそか)かな。

青塗(あをぬり)の瀬戸の火鉢によりかかり、
眼閉(と)ぢ、眼を開(あ)け、
時を惜(をし)めり。

何(なん)となく明日はよき事あるごとく
思ふ心を
叱(しか)りて眠る。

過ぎゆける一年のつかれ出(で)しものか、
元日といふに
うとうと眠し。

それとなく
その由(よ)るところ悲しまる、
元日の午後の眠(ねむ)たき心。

ぢっとして、
蜜柑(みかん)のつゆに染まりたる爪(つめ)を見つむる
心もとなさ!

手を打ちて
眠気(ねむげ)の返事きくまでの
そのもどかしさに似たるもどかしさ!

やみがたき用を忘れ来(き)ぬ――
途中にて口に入れたる
ゼムのためなりし。

すっぽりと蒲団(ふとん)をかぶり、
足をちぢめ、
舌を出してみぬ、誰(たれ)にともなしに。

いつしかに正月も過ぎて、
わが生活(くらし)が
またもとの道にはまり来(きた)れり。

神様と議論して泣きし――
あの夢よ!
四日(か)ばかりも前の朝なりし。

家(いへ)にかへる時間となるを、
ただ一つの待つことにして、
今日も働けり。

いろいろの人の思はく
はかりかねて、
今日もおとなしく暮らしたるかな。

おれが若(も)しこの新聞の主筆(しゆひつ)ならば、
やらむ――と思ひし
いろいろの事!

石狩(いしかり)の空知郡(そらちごほり)の
牧場のお嫁(よめ)さんより送り来(き)し
バタかな。

外套(ぐわいたう)の襟(えり)に頤(あご)を埋(うづ)め、
夜ふけに立どまりて聞く。
よく似た声かな。

Yといふ符牒(ふてふ)、
古日記(ふるにつき)の処処(しよしよ)にあり――
Yとはあの人の事なりしかな。

百姓の多くは酒をやめしといふ。
もっと困(こま)らば、
何をやめるらむ。

目さまして直(す)ぐの心よ!
年よりの家出の記事にも
涙出(い)でたり。

人とともに事をはかるに
適(てき)せざる、
わが性格を思ふ寝覚(ねざめ)かな。

何(なに)となく、
案外(あんがい)に多き気もせらる、
自分と同じこと思ふ人。

自分よりも年若き人に、
半日も気焔(きえん)を吐(は)きて、
つかれし心!

珍(めづ)らしく、今日は、
議会を罵(ののし)りつつ涙出(い)でたり。
うれしと思ふ。

ひと晩に咲かせてみむと、
梅の鉢(はち)を火に焙(あぶ)りしが、
咲かざりしかな。

あやまちて茶碗をこはし、
物をこはす気持のよさを、
今朝(けさ)も思へる。

猫の耳を引っぱりてみて、
にゃと啼(な)けば、
びっくりして喜ぶ子供の顔かな。

何故(なぜ)かうかとなさけなくなり、
弱い心を何度も叱(しか)り、
金かりに行く。

待てど待てど、
来る筈(はず)の人の来ぬ日なりき、
机の位置を此処(ここ)に変へしは。

古新聞!
おやここにおれの歌の事を賞(ほ)めて書いてあり、
二三行(ぎやう)なれど。

引越しの朝の足もとに落ちてゐぬ、
女の写真!
忘れゐし写真!

その頃は気もつかざりし
仮名(かな)ちがひの多きことかな、
昔の恋文(こひぶみ)!

八年前(はちねんぜん)の
今のわが妻の手紙の束(たば)!
何処(どこ)に蔵(しま)ひしかと気にかかるかな。

眠られぬ癖(くせ)のかなしさよ!
すこしでも
眠気(ねむけ)がさせば、うろたへて寝る。

笑ふにも笑はれざりき――
長いこと捜(さが)したナイフの
手の中(うち)にありしに。

この四五年、
空を仰(あふ)ぐといふことが一度もなかりき。
かうもなるものか?

原稿紙にでなくては
字を書かぬものと、
かたく信ずる我が児(こ)のあどけなさ!

どうかかうか、今月も無事(ぶじ)に暮らしたりと、
外(ほか)に欲もなき
晦日(みそか)の晩かな。

あの頃はよく嘘(うそ)を言ひき。
平気にてよく嘘を言ひき。
汗が出(い)づるかな。

古手紙よ!
あの男とも、五年前は、
かほど親しく交(まじ)はりしかな。

名は何(なん)と言ひけむ。
姓は鈴木なりき。
今はどうして何処(どこ)にゐるらむ。

生れたといふ葉書(はがき)みて、
ひとしきり、
顔をはれやかにしてゐたるかな。

そうれみろ、
あの人も子をこしらへたと、
何か気の済(す)む心地(ここち)にて寝る。

『石川はふびんな奴(やつ)だ。』
ときにかう自分で言ひて、
かなしみてみる。

ドア推(お)してひと足(あし)出(で)れば、
病人の目にはてもなき
長廊下(らうか)かな。

重い荷を下(おろ)したやうな、
気持なりき、
この寝台(ねだい)の上に来(き)ていねしとき。

そんならば生命(いのち)が欲しくないのかと、
医者に言はれて、
だまりし心!

真夜中にふと目がさめて、
わけもなく泣きたくなりて、
蒲団(ふとん)をかぶれる。

話しかけて返事のなきに
よく見れば、
泣いてゐたりき、隣の患者(くわんじや)。

病室の窓にもたれて、
久しぶりに巡査を見たりと、
よろこべるかな。

晴れし日のかなしみの一つ!
病室の窓にもたれて
煙草(たばこ)を味(あじは)ふ。

夜おそく何処(どこ)やらの室(へや)の騒がしきは
人や死にたらむと、
息をひそむる。

脉(みやく)をとる看護婦の手の、
あたたかき日あり、
つめたく堅(かた)き日もあり。

病院に入(い)りて初めての夜(よ)といふに、
すぐ寝入りしが、
物足らぬかな。

何(なに)となく自分をえらい人のやうに
思ひてゐたりき。
子供なりしかな。

ふくれたる腹を撫(な)でつつ、
病院の寝台(ねだい)に、ひとり、
かなしみてあり。

目さませば、からだ痛くて
動かれず。
泣きたくなりて、夜明くるを待つ。

びっしょりと寝汗(ねあせ)出(で)てゐる
あけがたの
まだ覚(さ)めやらぬ重きかなしみ。

ぼんやりとした悲しみが、
夜(よ)となれば、
寝台(ねだい)の上にそっと来て乗る。

病院の窓によりつつ、
いろいろの人の
元気に歩くを眺(なが)む。

もうお前(まへ)の心底(しんてい)をよく見届(みとど)けたと、
夢に母来て
泣いてゆきしかな。

思ふこと盗みきかるる如(ごと)くにて、
つと胸を引きぬ――
聴診器(ちやうしんき)より。

看護婦の徹夜するまで、
わが病(やま)ひ、
わるくなれとも、ひそかに願へる。

病院に来て、
妻や子をいつくしむ
まことの我にかへりけるかな。

もう嘘(うそ)をいはじと思ひき――
それは今朝(けさ)――
今また一つ嘘をいへるかな。

何となく、
自分を嘘のかたまりの如(ごと)く思ひて、
目をばつぶれる。

今までのことを
みな嘘にしてみれど、
心すこしも慰(なぐさ)まざりき。

軍人になると言ひ出して、
父母(ちちはは)に
苦労させたる昔の我かな。

うっとりとなりて、
剣をさげ、馬にのれる己(おの)が姿を
胸に描ける。

藤沢といふ代議士を
弟のごとく思ひて、
泣いてやりしかな。

何か一つ
大いなる悪事しておいて、
知らぬ顔してゐたき気持かな。

ぢっとして寝ていらっしゃいと
子供にでもいふがごとくに
医者のいふ日かな。

氷嚢の下より
まなこ光らせて、
寝られぬ夜(よる)は人をにくめる。

春の雪みだれて降るを
熱のある目に
かなしくも眺め入(い)りたる。

人間のその最大のかなしみが
これかと
ふっと目をばつぶれる。

廻診(くわいしん)の医者の遅(おそ)さよ!
痛みある胸に手をおきて
かたく眼をとづ。

医者の顔色をぢっと見し外(ほか)に
何も見ざりき――
胸の痛み募(つの)る日。

病(や)みてあれば心も弱るらむ!
さまざまの
泣きたきことが胸にあつまる。

寝つつ読む本の重さに
つかれたる
手を休めては、物を思へり。

今日はなぜか、
二度も、三度も、
金側(きんかは)の時計を一つ欲しと思へり。

いつか是非(ぜひ)、出(だ)さんと思ふ本のこと、
表紙のことなど、
妻に語れる。

胸いたみ、
春の霙(みぞれ)の降る日なり。
薬に噎(む)せて、伏(ふ)して眼をとづ。

あたらしきサラドの色の
うれしさに、
箸(はし)をとりあげて見は見つれども――

子を叱(しか)る、あはれ、この心よ。
熱高き日の癖(くせ)とのみ
妻よ、思ふな。

運命の来て乗れるかと
うたがひぬ――
蒲団(ふとん)の重き夜半(よは)の寝覚(ねざ)めに。

たへがたき渇(かわ)き覚(おぼ)ゆれど、
手をのべて
林檎(りんご)とるだにものうき日かな。

氷嚢のとけて温(ぬく)めば、
おのづから目がさめ来(きた)り、
からだ痛める。

いま、夢に閑古鳥(かんこどり)を聞けり。
閑古鳥を忘れざりしが
かなしくあるかな。

ふるさとを出(い)でて五年(いつとせ)、
病(やまひ)をえて、
かの閑古鳥を夢にきけるかな。

閑古鳥――
渋民村(しぶたみむら)の山荘(さんさう)をめぐる林の
あかつきなつかし。

ふるさとの寺の畔(ほとり)の
ひばの木の
いただきに来て啼(な)きし閑古鳥!

脈をとる手のふるひこそ
かなしけれ――
医者に叱られし若き看護婦!

いつとなく記憶(きおく)に残りぬ――
Fといふ看護婦の手の
つめたさなども。

はづれまで一度ゆきたしと
思ひゐし
かの病院の長廊下かな。

起きてみて、
また直(す)ぐ寝たくなる時の
力なき眼に愛(め)でしチュリップ!

堅(かた)く握(にぎ)るだけの力も無くなりし
やせし我が手の
いとほしさかな。

わが病(やまひ)の
その因(よ)るところ深く且(か)つ遠きを思ふ。
目をとぢて思ふ。

かなしくも、
病(やまひ)いゆるを願はざる心我に在(あ)り。
何(なん)の心ぞ。

新しきからだを欲しと思ひけり、
手術の傷(きず)の
痕(あと)を撫(な)でつつ。

薬のむことを忘るるを、
それとなく、
たのしみに思ふ長病(ながやまひ)かな。

ボロオヂンといふ露西亜名(ロシアな)が、
何故(なぜ)ともなく、
幾度も思ひ出さるる日なり。

いつとなく我にあゆみ寄り、
手を握り、
またいつとなく去りゆく人人(ひとびと)!

友も妻もかなしと思ふらし――
病(や)みても猶(なほ)、
革命のこと口に絶(た)たねば。

やや遠きものに思ひし
テロリストの悲しき心も――
近づく日のあり。

かかる目に
すでに幾度(いくたび)会へることぞ!
成(な)るがままに成れと今は思ふなり。

月に三十円もあれば、田舎(ゐなか)にては、
楽に暮せると――
ひょっと思へる。

今日もまた胸に痛みあり。
死ぬならば、
ふるさとに行(ゆ)きて死なむと思ふ。

いつしかに夏となれりけり。
やみあがりの目にこころよき
雨の明るさ!

病(や)みて四月(しぐわつ)――
そのときどきに変りたる
くすりの味もなつかしきかな。

病みて四月(ぐわつ)――
その間(ま)にも、猶(なほ)、目に見えて、
わが子の背丈(せたけ)のびしかなしみ。

すこやかに、
背丈(せたけ)のびゆく子を見つつ、
われの日毎(ひごと)にさびしきは何(な)ぞ。

まくら辺(べ)に子を坐らせて、
まじまじとその顔を見れば、
逃げてゆきしかな。

いつも子を
うるさきものに思ひゐし間(あひだ)に、
その子、五歳(さい)になれり。

その親にも、
親の親にも似るなかれ――
かく汝(な)が父は思へるぞ、子よ。

かなしきは、
(われもしかりき)
叱(しか)れども、打てども泣かぬ児の心なる。

「労働者」「革命」などといふ言葉を
聞きおぼえたる
五歳の子かな。

時として、
あらん限りの声を出し、
唱歌をうたふ子をほめてみる。

何思ひけむ――
玩具(おもちや)をすてておとなしく、
わが側(そば)に来て子の坐りたる。

お菓子貰ふ時も忘れて、
二階より、
町の往来(ゆきき)を眺むる子かな。

新しきインクの匂(にほ)ひ、
目に沁(し)むもかなしや。
いつか庭の青めり。

ひとところ、畳(たたみ)を見つめてありし間(ま)の
その思ひを、
妻よ、語れといふか。

あの年のゆく春のころ、
眼をやみてかけし黒眼鏡(くろめがね)――
こはしやしにけむ。

薬のむことを忘れて、
ひさしぶりに、
母に叱られしをうれしと思へる。

枕辺(まくらべ)の障子(しやうじ)あけさせて、
空を見る癖(くせ)もつけるかな――
長き病に。

おとなしき家畜のごとき
心となる、
熱やや高き日のたよりなさ。

何か、かう、書いてみたくなりて、
ペンを取りぬ――
花活(はないけ)の花あたらしき朝。

放(はな)たれし女のごとく、
わが妻の振舞(ふるま)ふ日なり。
ダリヤを見入る。

あてもなき金(かね)などを待つ思ひかな。
寝つ起きつして、
今日も暮したり。

何もかもいやになりゆく
この気持よ。
思ひ出しては煙草(たばこ)を吸ふなり。

或(あ)る市(まち)にゐし頃の事として、
友の語る
恋がたりに嘘(うそ)の交(まじ)るかなしさ。

ひさしぶりに、
ふと声を出して笑ひてみぬ――
蝿(はひ)の両手を揉(も)むが可笑(をか)しさに。

胸いたむ日のかなしみも、
かをりよき煙草の如(ごと)く、
棄(す)てがたきかな。

何か一つ騒ぎを起してみたかりし、
先刻(さっき)の我を
いとしと思へる。

五歳になる子に、何故(なぜ)ともなく、
ソニヤといふ露西亜名(ロシアな)をつけて、
呼びてはよろこぶ。

解(と)けがたき
不和(ふわ)のあひだに身を処(しょ)して、
ひとりかなしく今日も怒(いか)れり。

猫を飼(か)はば、
その猫がまた争(あらそ)ひの種となるらむ、
かなしきわが家(いへ)。

俺(おれ)ひとり下宿屋にやりてくれぬかと、
今日もあやふく、
いひ出(い)でしかな。

ある日、ふと、やまひを忘れ、
牛の啼(な)く真似をしてみぬ、――
妻子(つまこ)の留守に。

かなしきは我が父!
今日も新聞を読みあきて、
庭に小蟻(こあり)と遊べり。

ただ一人の
をとこの子なる我はかく育てり。
父母もかなしかるらむ。

茶まで断(た)ちて、
わが平復(へいふく)を祈りたまふ
母の今日また何か怒(いか)れる。

今日ひょっと近所の子等(こら)と遊びたくなり、
呼べど来らず。
こころむづかし。

やまひ癒(い)えず、
死なず、
日毎(ひごと)にこころのみ険(けは)しくなれる七八月(ななやつき)かな。

買ひおきし
薬つきたる朝に来し
友のなさけの為替(かはせ)のかなしさ。

児を叱れば、
泣いて、寝入りぬ。
口すこしあけし寝顔にさはりてみるかな。

何がなしに
肺が小さくなれる如(ごと)く思ひて起きぬ――
秋近き朝。

秋近し!
電燈の球(たま)のぬくもりの
さはれば指の皮膚(ひふ)に親しき。

ひる寝せし児の枕辺(まくらべ)に
人形を買ひ来てかざり、
ひとり楽しむ。

クリストを人なりといへば、
妹の眼がかなしくも、
われをあはれむ。

縁先(えんさき)にまくら出させて、
ひさしぶりに、
ゆふべの空にしたしめるかな。

庭のそとを白き犬ゆけり。
ふりむきて、
犬を飼はむと妻にはかれる。


底本:「日本文学全集12 国木田独歩・石川啄木集」集英社
1967(昭和42)年9月7日初版発行
1972(昭和47)年9月10日9版発行
入力:j.utiyama
校正:浜野智
1998年8月3日公開
2005年11月23日修正
青空文庫作成ファイル:
このファイルは、インターネットの図書館、青空文庫(http://www.aozora.gr.jp/)で作られました。入力、校正、制作にあたったのは、ボランティアの皆さんです。
●表記について

  • このファイルは W3C 勧告 XHTML1.1 にそった形式で作成されています。

ISHIKAWA TAKUBOKU (1886-1912)

Tanka Poet

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FROM MOUNT SINAI TO LUBLIN: HOLOCAUST POEM OF JACOB GLATSTEIN

March 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Posted in Art, Books, History, Judaica, Literary | Leave a comment

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The Yiddish poet, Jacob Glatstein

Jewish theologians since the Holocaust have struggled to understand God’s role in the Holocaust. The American rabbi, Richard Rubinstein, argues that God is dead (or, at least, the personal God of Jewish tradition). Martin Buber speaks of an “eclipse” or of the “hidden face” of God.”

The Yiddish poet, Jacob Glatstein, pushes the theological envelope even further.

In a 1946 poem entitled, “Not The Dead Praise God” he hints that the Shoah ended God’s role in our lives.

Playing on the ancient Jewish tradition that the covenant with God was accepted when all the people of Israel stood together at Sinai, Glatstein hints that the vast, communal destruction of the Jews nullifies that bond:

We received the Torah at Mount Sinai and in Lublin we gave it back.

Not the dead praise God-

the Torah was given for the living.

And as we all together

stood in a body

at the Granting of the Torah,

so truly did we all die in Lublin.

“Not The Dead Praise God”

Jacob Glatstein 1946

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THE 2008 FRENCH FILM “SUMMER HOURS”: HOKUSAI CONNECTION

March 17, 2011 at 9:55 am | Posted in Art, Film, France, Globalization, History | Leave a comment

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L’heure d’été

“Summer Hours”

“Summer Hours” is a 2008 movie by French director Olivier Assayas and deals with the disposition, selling, donating of art objects in the household of a deceased artist Mr. Paul Berthier, after the death of the seventy-five year-old matriarch of the family.

One of the artists and his creations in the story of this house and the estate, a kind of Paul Berthier shrine and museum,  is Felix Bracquemond.

“He was also a painter, ceramist, and an innovator in decorative arts. Gabriel Weisberg called him the “molder of artistic taste in his time”.[1] Indeed it was he who recognised the beauty of the Hokusai woodcuts used as packing around a shipment of Japanese china, a discovery which helped change the look of late 19th century art.[2]”

Félix Bracquemond

(May 22, 1833 – October 29, 1914)

Félix Henri Bracquemond (May 22, 1833 – October 29, 1914) was a French painter and etcher.

Félix Bracquemond was born in Paris. He was trained in early youth as a trade lithographer, until Guichard, a pupil of Ingres, took him to his studio. His portrait of his grandmother, painted by him at the age of nineteen, attracted Théophile Gautier‘s attention at the Salon. He applied himself to engraving and etching about 1853, and played a leading and brilliant part in the revival of the etcher’s art in France. Altogether he produced over eight hundred plates, comprising portraits, landscapes, scenes of contemporary life, and bird-studies, besides numerous interpretations of other artist’s paintings, especially those of Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, Gustave Moreau and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. After having been attached to the Sèvres porcelain factory in 1870, he accepted a post as art manager of the Paris atelier of the firm of Haviland of Limoges. He was connected by a link of firm friendship with Édouard Manet, James McNeill Whistler, and all the other fighters in the impressionist cause, and received all the honors that await the successful artist in France, including the grade of officer of the Legion of Honor in 1889.

Bracquemond was a prominent figure in artistic and literary circles in the second half of the 19th century. He was close to writers such as Edmond de Goncourt and critic Gustave Geffroy, and numbered among his friends Millet and Corot, Henri Fantin-Latour, Degas and the Impressionist circle, and Auguste Rodin. He was one of the more prolific printmakers of his time and he was awarded the grande medaille d’honneur at the Universal Exhibition of 1900.

He was also a painter, ceramist, and an innovator in decorative arts. Gabriel Weisberg called him the “molder of artistic taste in his time”.[1] Indeed it was he who recognised the beauty of the Hokusai woodcuts used as packing around a shipment of Japanese china, a discovery which helped change the look of late 19th century art.[2]

He married French Impressionist artist Marie Bracquemond in 1869. He died in Sèvres.

References

1. Weisberg, Gabriel (September 1976). “Félix Bracquemond and the Molding of French Taste”. Artnews: 64–66.

2. Bouillon, Jean-Paul (1980). “Remarques sur la Japonisme de Bracquemond”. Japonisme in Art, Art Symposium (Tokyo: Kodansha International): 83–108.

Haviland & Co.

Théodore Haviland

History

David Haviland was an American businessman from New York dealing with porcelain. While seeking out new business interests, he arrived in Limoges, France and by 1842, he was able to send his first shipment of Limoges porcelain to the United States. He was also key in adopting a new process by which to decorate porcelain pieces developed in 1873. [1]

In 1890, David Haviland’s son, Théodore Haviland, built a very large and prominent factory in Limoges and introduced a variety of new processes for firing and decorating porcelain pieces. The Haviland company has since been overseen by grandson William Haviland, and great-grandson Theodore Haviland II.

Present Day

Haviland & Co. is still operating as Haviland Company, through the facilities are now modernized and now sell silverware, crystal, and giftware in addition to porcelain.

Porcelain

Haviland porcelain is highly desirable Limoges porcelain. Many of the older pieces are still in existence and are desirable as an antique or collectible item. It is estimated that there are as many as 60,000 Haviland porcelain patterns,[2] though it is difficult to determine as many of the patterns have never been formally named or catalogued, and factory records are incomplete. Attempts to catalogue the pieces have resulted in several systems, including the creation of Schleiger numbers, and informal naming by collectors.

Schleiger Numbers

This numbering system was developed by Arlene Schleiger beginning in the 1930s and was published in 6 volumes, and covered approximately 4000 examples of Haviland & Co. porcelain.[3]

Prominent examples

Haviland has produced many prominent pieces, including:

References

1. Haviland History

2. Haviland Online

3. What is a Schleiger Number?

4. The White House during Mary and Abraham Lincoln’s Residence

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EMPIRES AND EXHIBITIONS: WEMBLEY 1924 IN “THIS HAPPY BREED”

March 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Art, Film, History, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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EMPIRES AND EXHIBITIONS AS COLLECTIVE DREAMS

The British movie classic, “This Happy Breed”, 1944, directed by David Lean, based on a Noel Coward script, makes mention of the 1924 Wembley empire exhibition.

British Empire Exhibition

The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley, Middlesex in 1924 and 1925.[1][2][3][4]

It was opened by King George V on St George’s Day, 23 April 1924. The British Empire contained 58 countries at that time, and only Gambia and Gibraltar did not take part. It cost £12 million and was the largest exhibition ever staged anywhere in the world – it attracted 27 million visitors.[5]

Its official aim was “to stimulate trade, strengthen bonds that bind mother Country to her Sister States and Daughters, to bring into closer contact the one with each other, to enable all who owe allegiance to the British flag to meet on common ground and learn to know each other”. Maxwell Ayrton was the architect for the project. The three main buildings were the Palaces of Industry, Engineering and Arts. The Palace of Engineering was the world’s largest reinforced concrete building, a building method that allowed quick construction.

A special railway loop line and station were built, to connect the site to London Marylebone station.[6] The various buildings of the site were linked by several ‘light railways‘, including the screw-driven ‘Never-Stop Railway’.[7][8]

Most of the exhibition halls were intended to be temporary and demolished afterwards, but at least the Palace of Engineering and the British Government Pavilion survived into the 1970s, if only because of the high cost of demolition of the huge concrete structures. The Empire Pool became the Wembley Arena, and at the suggestion of the chair of the exhibition committee, Scotsman Sir James Stevenson, the Empire Stadium was kept; it became Wembley Stadium, the home of Football in England until 2002 when it was demolished to be replaced by a new stadium.

The Exhibition was also the first occasion for which the British Post Office issued commemorative postage stamps. Two stamps were issued on 23 April 1924: a 1d in scarlet, and a 1 12d in brown, both being inscribed “British Empire Exhibition 1924”; they were designed by H. Nelson.[9] A second printing, identical to the first apart from the year being changed to 1925, was issued on 9 May 1925.[9] A List of Great Britain commemorative stamps gives further details of British commemorative postage stamps. Envelopes, letter cards, postcards[10] and many other souvenirs commemorating the event were produced as well.

A grand “Pageant of Empire” was held at the Exhibition in the Empire Stadium from 21 July 1924, for which the newly-appointed Master of the King’s Musick, Sir Edward Elgar, composed an “Empire March” and the music for a series of songs with words by Alfred Noyes. However, a later speaking engagement by Prince Albert at the exhibition on 31 October 1925 proved to be highly embarrassing due to the Prince’s pronounced stammer, which prompted him to consult speech therapist Lionel Logue for treatment.

The management of the exhibition asked the Imperial Studies Committee of the Royal Colonial Institute to assist them with the educational aspect of the exhibition, which resulted in a 12-volume book “The British Empire: A survey” with Hugh Gunn as the General Editor, and which was published in London in 1924.

The Palace of Engineering hosted the fencing events for the 1948 Summer Olympics.[11]

Railway exhibits

Several railway companies had display stands at the Exhibition; in some cases they exhibited their latest locomotives or coaches. Among the exhibits in the Palace of Engineering was the now famous railway locomotive, LNER no. 4472 Flying Scotsman; this was joined in 1925 by GWR 4079 Pendennis Castle. Several other railway locomotives were exhibited: in 1925, the Southern Railway exhibited no. 866 of their N class, which was brand new, not entering service until 28 November 1925.[12] The 1924 exhibition included a Prince of Wales class 4-6-0 locomotive of London and North Western Railway (LNWR) design, which had been built for the exhibition by the Scottish locomotive manufacturer William Beardmore & Co. Beardmore’s had previously built similar locomotives for the LNWR, which in 1923 had become a constituent of the newly-formed London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS); when the exhibition closed in November 1924, the LMS bought the locomotive from Beardmore.[13][14] In 1924, the Metropolitan Railway displayed one of their latest Inner Circle cars, a first class driving trailer which had been built in 1923.[15] In 1925, in the Palace of Housing and Transport, the Metropolitan displayed electric locomotive no. 15, with some of the panelling, doors and framework removed from one side, to allow the interior to be viewed; it had been built in 1922. A few years later, it was named Wembley 1924 in honour of the exhibition.[16][17]

London defended

From May 9 to June 1, 1925 No. 32 Squadron RAF flew an air display six nights a week entitled “London Defended” Similar to the display they had done the previous year when the aircraft were painted black it consisted of a night time air display over the Wembley Exhibition flying RAF Sopwith Snipes which were painted red for the display and fitted with white lights on the wings tail and fueselage. The display involved firing blank ammunition into the staduim crowds and dropping pyrotechnics from the aeroplanes to simulate shrapnel from guns on the ground, Explosions on the ground also produced the effect of bombs being dropped into the stadium by the Aeroplanes. One of the Pilots in the display was Flying officer C. W. A. Scott who later became famous for breaking three England Australia solo flight records and winning the MacRobertson Air Race with co-pilot Tom Campbell Black in 1934.[18][19]

References

1. British Pathe (agency) Film of British Empire Exhibition, reel one

2. British Pathe (agency) Film of British Empire Exhibition, reel two

3. British Pathe (agency) Film of British Empire Exhibition, reel three

4. British Pathe (agency) Film of British Empire Exhibition, reel four

5. Sunday Tribune of India (newspaper) Article on exhibition (2004)

6. Wembley Stadium loop line

7. British Film Institute Never-Stop Railway

8. British Pathe (agency) Never-Stop Railway film (probably 1925)

9. a b Jefferies, Hugh; Brine, Lesley (April 2008) [1986]. Great Britain Concise Stamp Catalogue (23rd ed.). Ringwood: Stanley Gibbons. pp. 38–39, S.G. 430–433. ISBN 978 0 85269 677 7. 2887(08).

10. Wembley British Empire Exhibitions stamps on The British Postal Museum & Archive website

11. 1948 Summer Olympics official report. p. 45.

12. Bradley, D.L. (April 1980) [1961]. The Locomotive History of the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (2nd ed.). London: RCTS. p. 90. ISBN 0 901115 49 5.

13. Cook, A.F. (1990). Greenwood, William. ed. LMS Locomotive Design and Construction. Locomotives of the LMS. Lincoln: RCTS. p. 59. ISBN 0 901115 71 1.

14. Baxter, Bertram (1979). Baxter, David. ed. Volume 2B: London and North Western Railway and its constituent companies. British Locomotive Catalogue 1825-1923. Ashbourne: Moorland Publishing. pp. 282, 285. ISBN 0 903485 84 2.

15. Snowdon, James R. (2001). Metropolitan Railway Rolling Stock. Didcot: Wild Swan. p. 113. ISBN 1 874103 66 6.

16. Day, John R. (1979) [1963]. The Story of London’s Underground (6th ed.). Westminster: London Transport. p. 68. ISBN 0 85329 094 6. 1178/211RP/5M(A).

17. Benest, K.R. (1984) [1963]. Metropolitan Electric Locomotives (2nd ed.). Hemel Hempstead: London Underground Railway Society. pp. 35,36,38,41,102. ISBN 0 9508793 1 2.

18. Scott, C.W.A. Scott’s Book, the life and Mildenhall-Melbourne flight of C. W. A. Scott, London : Hodder & Stoughton, 1934., Bib ID 2361252 Chapter 3, Aerobatics

19. London Defended Torchlight and Searchlight spectacle, The Stadium Wembley May 9 to June 1, 1925 official programme. London: Fleetway Press

Bibliography

  • The Lion Roars at Wembley, Donald R. Knight & Alan D. Sabey, privately published by D.R. Knight, New Barnet, 1984. ISBN 0950925101.
  • Geppert, Alexander C.T., ‘True Copies. Time and Space Travels at British Imperial Exhibitions, 1880-1930’, in The Making of Modern Tourism. The Cultural History of the British Experience, 1600-2000, eds. Hartmut Berghoff et al., Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, pp. 223–48.
  • Geppert, Alexander C.T., Fleeting Cities. Imperial Expositions in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

A colonial exhibition was a type of international exhibition intended to boost trade and bolster popular support for the various colonial empires during the New Imperialism period, which started in the 1880s with the scramble for Africa.

The British Empire Exhibition of 1924–5 ranked among these expositions, but perhaps the most notable was the rather successful 1931 Exposition coloniale in Paris, which lasted six months and sold 33 million tickets.[1] Paris’ Colonial Exhibition debuted the 6 May 1931, and encompassed 110 hectares of the Bois de Vincennes. The exhibition included dozens of temporary museums and facades representing the various colonies of the European nations, as well as several permanent buildings. Among these were the Palais de la Porte Doree, which today serves as the Cite Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, as well as the Musee Permanente des Colonies, designed by architect Albert Laprode.[1]

An anti-colonial counter-exhibition was held near the 1931 Colonial Exhibition, titled Truth on the Colonies and was organized by the French Communist Party. The first section was dedicated to the crimes made during the colonial conquests, and quoted Albert Londres and André Gide‘s criticisms of forced labour while the second one made an apology of the Soviets’ “nationalities’ policy” compared to “imperialist colonialism”.

Germany and Portugal also staged colonial exhibitions, as well as Belgium, which had a Foire coloniale as late as 1948. Human zoos were featured in some of these exhibitions, such as in the Parisian 1931 exhibition.[2]

Colonial exhibitions

Exhibitions which may be described as colonial exhibitions include:

References

1. a b Blevis, Laure; Lafout-Couturieur, Helene; et al. (2008). 1931: Les Etrangers au temps de l’Exposition Coloniale. Paris: Gallimard.

2. “From human zoos to colonial apotheoses: the era of exhibiting the Other” by Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel, and Sandrine Lemaire

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FORCE 136 IN “BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI”

March 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Posted in Art, Asia, Books, History, Military, Research | Leave a comment

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Force 136 and “Bridge on the River Kwai”

In the 1957 movie classic, “Bridge on the River Kwai,” the Jack Hawkins character, “Major Warden” recruits William Holden (“Shears”) to go with his commando group trained at the British commando school in Ceylon, back to the Kwai Bridge, to blow it up.

“Major Warden” mentions something called Force 316 several times.

This was a movie renaming of Force 136, an actual team.

Force 136

Force 136 was the general cover name for a branch of the British World War II organization, the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The organisation was established to encourage and supply resistance movements in enemy-occupied territory, and occasionally mount clandestine sabotage operations. Force 136 operated in the regions of the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II which were occupied by Japan from 1941 to 1945.

Although the top command of Force 136 were British officers and civilians, most of those it trained and employed as agents were indigenous to the regions in which they operated. British, Americans or other Europeans could not operate clandestinely in cities or populated areas in Asia, but once the resistance movements engaged in open rebellion, Allied armed forces personnel who knew the local languages and peoples became invaluable for liaison with conventional forces. In Burma in particular, SOE could draw on many former forestry managers and so on, who had become fluent in Burmese or other local languages before the war, and who had been commissioned into the Army when the Japanese invaded Burma.

History

SOE was formed in 1940, by the merger of existing Departments of the War Office and the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Its purpose was to incite, organise and supply indigenous resistance forces in enemy-occupied territory. Initially, the enemy was Nazi Germany and Italy, but from late 1940, it became clear that conflict with Japan was also inevitable.

Two missions were sent to set up (and assume political control of) the SOE in the Far East. The first was led by a former businessman, Valentine Killery of Imperial Chemical Industries, who set up his HQ in Singapore. A scratch resistance organisation was set up in Malaya, but Singapore was captured on 15 February 1942, soon after Japan entered the war.

A second mission was set up in India by another former businessman, Colin Mackenzie of J. and P. Coats, a clothing manufacturer. Mackenzie’s India Mission originally operated from Meerut in North West India. Its location was governed by the fear that the Germans might overrun the Middle East and Caucasus, in which case resistance movements would be established in Afghanistan, Persia and Iraq. When this threat was removed late in 1942 after the battles of Stalingrad and El Alamein, the focus was switched to South East Asia.

The India Mission’s first cover name was GS I(k), which made it appear to be a record-keeping branch of GHQ India. The name, Force 136 was adopted in March 1944. From December 1944, the organisation’s headquarters moved to Kandy in Ceylon, and cooperated closely with South East Asia Command which was also located there.

Force 136 was wound up in 1946, along with the rest of SOE.

Operations

Malaya

The Oriental Mission of SOE attempted to set up “stay-behind” and resistance organisations from August 1941, but their plans were opposed by the British colonial governor, Sir Shenton Thomas. They were able to begin serious efforts only in January 1942, after the Japanese Invasion of Malaya had already begun.

An irregular warfare school, STS 101, was set up by the explorer and mountaineer Freddie Spencer Chapman. Chapman himself led the first reconnaissances and attacks behind Japanese lines during the Battle of Slim River. Although the school’s graduates mounted a few operations against the Japanese lines of communication, they were cut off from the other Allied forces by the fall of Singapore. An attempt was made by the Oriental Mission to set up an HQ in Sumatra but this island too was overrun by the Japanese.

Malayan Communist Party

Before the Japanese attacked Malaya, a potential resistance organisation already existed in the form of the Malayan Communist Party. This party’s members were mainly from the Chinese community and implacably anti-Japanese. Just before the fall of Singapore, the party’s Secretary General, Lai Teck, was told by the British authorities that his party should disperse into the forests, a decision already made by the party’s members.

In isolation, the Communists formed the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). Their first arms and equipment were either donated by STS 101 before they were overrun, or recovered from the battlefields or abandoned British Army depots. The MPAJA formed rigidly-disciplined camps and units in the forest, supplied with food by networks of contacts among displaced Chinese labourers and “squatters” on marginal land. Chapman had remained in Malaya after Singapore fell, but had no radio or means of contacting Allied forces elsewhere. Nevertheless, the MPAJA still regarded Chapman as the official British authority, and Chin Peng was appointed as liaison officer with Chapman.[1]

Singaporean World War II hero Lim Bo Seng had returned to Malaya from Calcutta in 1942, and recruited some agents who had made their way to India by 1943. Force 136 attempted to regain contact with Chapman in Operation Gustavus, by infiltrating parties which included Lim Bo Seng and former STS 101 members John Davis and Richard Broome by sea into the area near Pangkor Island. Their radio was unable to contact Force 136 HQ in Ceylon and the MPAJA contacts on Pangkor Island were betrayed to the Japanese.

The radio brought in by Gustavus was finally made to work in February 1945. Chapman was able to visit Force 136 HQ in Kandy and report. By this time, Force 136 had substantial resources, and in the few months before the end of the war, they were able to send 2,000 weapons to the MPAJA and no less than 300 liaison personnel. About half of these were British who had worked or lived in Malaya before the war, the others were Chinese who had made their own way to India or who had been taken there by Force 136 for training. With these resources, the MPAJA was built up to become a substantial guerilla army with about 7,000 fighters.[2] However, Japan surrendered before it had a chance to stage a major uprising.

In isolation in jungle camps for several years, the MCP and MPAJA had purged themselves of many members suspected of treachery or espionage, which contributed to their post-war hard-line attitude and led in turn to the insurgency known as the Malayan Emergency.

Kuomintang

The Kuomintang also had a widespread following in the Malaysian Chinese community in the days before the War, but were unable to mount any significant clandestine resistance to the Japanese. Partly, this was because they were based among the population in the towns, unlike the MCP which drew much of its support from mine or plantation workers in remote encampments or “squatters” on the edge of the forest. Most of the KMT’s supporters and their dependents were therefore hostages to any Japanese mass reprisal.

When Lim Bo Seng and other agents from Force 136 attempted to make contact with Kuomintang networks in Ipoh as part of Operation Gustavus, they found that the KMT’s underground actions there were tainted by corruption or private feuding.[3]

Malayan resistance

The force also collaborated with many Chinese Malayan villages. As a multi religious and multi-racial country, the population of Malaya was also strongly divided along communal and religious lines, with some portion of the populace loyal to the Allied forces, while others loyal to Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan. Thus, agents risked the constant threat of being betrayed.

Even though the Malays (who are Muslims) and Indians were not badly treated by Japanese forces in the beginning of the occupation, later they too felt the hardship of life under the occupation and this was magnified by the brutal treatment of anyone who was suspected of being anti-Japanese (although hardly any atrocities were inflicted on them). Thus the SOE found a suitable backing among a few Malays and sent their officers to train local resistance forces famously known as Harimau Malaya Force 136 (Tigers of Malaya of Force 136). However, certain individuals in Malaya were strong supporters of the Japanese, and were actively involved in the notorious Kempeitai “mopping up” operations and other atrocities.

It was due to these ill-treatment that prompted the local populace’s involvement in Force 136. The main base for this group was near Gerik, a district in the state of Perak. The force’s main task was to form an intelligence-gathering network and, should prospects be favourable, to establish a resistance movement in northern Malaya. The force also arranged the reception of other parties of Force 136 who landed by parachute, providing them with guides and local contacts in the areas of their planned operations.

A novel loosely based on the exploit of the resistance force was produced in late 1980s and there were several known figures in the book including Lt. Colonel Peter Dobree, a well known commander of the force.

China

From 1938, Britain had been supporting the Republic of China against the Japanese, by allowing supplies to reach the Chinese via the Burma Road running through Burma. SOE had various plans regarding China in the early days of the war. Forces were to be sent into China through Burma and a Bush Warfare School under Michael Calvert was established in Burma to train Chinese and Allied personnel in irregular warfare. These plans came to an end with the Japanese conquest of Burma in 1942.

Strictly speaking, SOE was not tasked to operate inside China after 1943, when it was left to the Americans. However, one group, the British Army Aid Group under an officer named “Blue” Ride did operate near Hong Kong, in territory controlled by the Communist Party of China.

In Operation Remorse, an unscrupulous businessman named Walter Fletcher carried out dubious operations such as trying to obtain smuggled rubber, currency speculation and so on, in Japanese-occupied China. As a result of these activities, SOE actually returned a financial profit of GBP 77 million in the Far East. Many of these funds and the networks used to acquire them were subsequently used in various relief and repatriation operations, but critics pointed pointed out that this created a pool of money that SOE could use beyond the oversight of any normal authority or budget.

Thailand

On 21 December 1940, a formal military alliance between Thailand under Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram and Japan was concluded. At noon on 25 January 1942, Thailand declared war on the United States and Great Britain. Some Thais supported the alliance, arguing that it was in the national interest, or that it was better sense to ally oneself with a victorious power. Others formed the Free Thai Movement to resist. The Free Thai Movement was supported by Force 136 and the OSS, and provided valuable intelligence from within Thailand. Eventually, when the war turned against the Japanese, Phibun was forced to resign, and a Free Thai-controlled government was formed. A coup was being planned to disrupt the Japanese occupying forces in 1945, but was forestalled by the ending of the war.

Burma

Burma was the theatre in which the major Allied effort was made in South East Asia from late 1942 onwards, and Force 136 was heavily involved. Initially, it had to compete with regular formations such as the Chindits and other irregular organizations for suitable personnel, aircraft and other resources. It eventually played a significant part in the liberation of the country by slowly building up a national organization which was used to great effect in 1945.

Two separate sections of SOE dealt with Burma. One concentrated on the minority communities who mainly inhabited the frontier regions; the other established links with the nationalist movements among the majority Bamar peoples in the central parts of the country and the major cities. It has been argued that this division of political effort, although necessary on military grounds, contributed to the inter-community conflicts which have continued in Burma (Myanmar) to the present day.

There were Indians and Afghans who were part of Force 136 and were heavily involved in Burmese operation, like C. L. Sharma, an Indian Professor of Linguistics at British Army Headquarters in India who later became an active member of Force 136 and spent almost 6 years mainly in various missions of the Force in Burma.

Karens, Chins, Arakanese and Kachins

The majority community of Burma were the Bamar. Among the minority peoples of Burma, including Chins, Karens and Kachins, there was a mixture of anti-Bamar, anti-Japanese and pro-British sentiments. In 1942, the pro-Japanese Burma Independence Army raised with Japanese assistance, attempted to disarm Karens in the Irrawaddy River delta region. This created a large-scale civil conflict which turned the Karens firmly against the Japanese.

The Karens were the largest of the minority communities. Although many lived in the Irrawaddy delta, their homeland can be considered to be the “Karenni”, a mountainous and heavily forested tract along the border with Thailand. They had supplied many recruits to the Burma Rifles (part of the British forces in Burma during the early part of the war), and in the chaos of the British retreat into India, many of them had been given a rifle and ammunition and three months’ pay, and instructed to return to their home villages to await further orders. The presence of such trained soldiers contributed to the effectiveness of the Karen resistance.

A few British army officers had also been left behind in the Karreni, in a hasty attempt to organise a “stay-behind” organisation. In 1943, the Japanese made a ruthless punitive expedition into the Karenni, where they knew a British Officer was operating. To spare the population, a British liaison officer, Hugh Seagrim, voluntarily surrendered himself to the Japanese and was executed along with several of his Karen fighters.

However, Force 136 continued to supply the Karens, and from late 1944 they mounted Operation Character, which organised large-scale resistance in the Karenni. In April 1945, Force 136 stage-managed a major uprising in the region in support of the Allied offensive, which prevented the Japanese Fifteenth Army forestalling the Allied advance on Rangoon. After the capture of Rangoon, Karen resistance fighters continued to harass Japanese units and stragglers east of the Sittang River. It was estimated that at their moment of maximum effort, the Karens mustered 8,000 active guerrillas (some sources claim 12,000), plus many more sympathisers and auxiliaries.

SOE had some early missions to Kachin State, the territory inhabited by the Kachins of northern Burma, but for much of the war, this area was the responsibility of the American-controlled China-Burma-India Theater, and the Kachin guerrillas were armed and coordinated by the American liaison organisation, OSS Detachment 101.

The various ethnic groups (Chins, Lushai, Arakanese) who inhabited the border areas between Burma and India were not the responsibility of Force 136 but of V Force, an irregular force which was under direct control of the Army. From 1942 to 1944, hill peoples in the frontier regions fought on both sides; some under V Force and other Allied irregular forces HQ, others under local or Japanese-sponsored organisations such as the Chin Defence Force and Arakan Defence Force.

Burmese political links

The Burma section of Force 136 was commanded by John Ritchie Gardiner, who had managed a forestry company before the war and also served on the Municipal Council of Rangoon. He had known personally some Burmese politicians such as Ba Maw who had later formed a government which, although nominally independent, collaborated through necessity with the Japanese occupiers.

In 1942, when the Japanese invaded Burma, the majority Bamar (Burman) people had been sympathetic to them, or at least hostile to the British colonial government and the Indian community which had immigrated or had been imported as workers for newly-created industries. Bamar volunteers flocked to the Burma Independence Army which fought several actions against British forces. During the years of occupation, this attitude changed. The Burma Independence Army was reorganised as the Burma National Army (BNA), under Japanese control. In 1944, Aung San, the Burmese nationalist who had founded the BIA with Japanese assistance and had been appointed Minister of Defence in Ba Maw’s government and commander of the Burma National Army, contacted Burmese communist and socialist leaders, some of whom were already leading insurgencies against the Japanese. Together they formed the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO) under the overall leadership of Thakin Soe. Force 136 was able to establish contact with this organisation through links with Burmese communist groups.

During the final Allied offensive into Burma in 1945, there were then a series of uprisings in Burma against the Japanese, which Force 136 supported although it had little control or even influence over the rebellious BNA and its supporters. The first rebellion involved a locally recruited force known as the Arakan Defence Army turning on the Japanese in Arakan. The second involved an uprising by BNA units near Toungoo in Central Burma, beginning on 8 March 1945. The final uprising occurred when the entire BNA changed sides on 27 March.

The forces of the AFO, including the BNA, were renamed the Patriotic Burmese Forces. They played a part in the final campaign to recapture Rangoon, and eliminate Japanese resistance in Central Burma. The BNA’s armed strength at the time of their defection was around 11,000. The Patriotic Burmese Forces also included large numbers of communists and other irregulars with loyalty to particular groups, and those Karens who had served in the BNA and Karen resistance groups in the Irrawaddy Delta.

In arranging the acceptance of Aung San and his forces as Allied combatants, Force 136 was in direct conflict with the more staid Civil Affairs Service Officers at South East Asia Command‘s headquarters, who feared the postwar implications of handing out large numbers of weapons to irregular and potentially anti-British forces, and of promoting the political careers of Aung San or the communist leaders. The AFO at the time of the uprising represented itself as the provisional government of Burma. It was eventually persuaded to drop this claim after negotiations with South East Asia Command, in return for recognition as a political movement (the AFPFL).

Indian National Army

Another force operating under Japanese command in Burma was the Indian National Army, a force composed of former prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Singapore and some Tamils living in Malaya. However, Force 136 was prevented from working with anyone in the Indian National Army, regardless of their intentions. The policy towards the INA was formed and administered by British India Command, a British rather than Allied headquarters.

Field Operations

Force 136 was also active in more conventional military-style operations behind Japanese lines in Burma. Such an operation could comprise a group of up to 40 infantry with officers and a Radio Operator, infiltrating Japanese lines on intelligence and discretionary search and destroy missions. Such missions, which could last several weeks (supplied by C47 transport aircraft) kept close wireless contact with operational bases in India, using high-grade ciphers (changed daily) and hermetically-sealed wireless/morse sets.

Every day (Japanese permitting) at pre–arranged times, the Radio Operator (with escorts) climbed to a high vantage point, usually necessitating a gruelling climb to the top of some slippery, high, jungle-clad ridge, and sent the latest intelligence information and the group’s supply requests etc., and received further orders in return. The Radio Operator was central to a mission’s success and his capture or death would spell disaster for the mission. To avoid capture and use under duress by the Japanese, every SOE operative was issued a cyanide pill.

One such Radio Operator was James Gow (originally from the Royal Corps of Signals), who recounted his first mission in his book “From Rhunahaorine to Rangoon.” In the summer of 1944, the Japanese push toward India had been stopped at the Battle of Kohima. In the aftermath of the battle, Japanese forces split up and retreated deep into the jungle. As part of the initiative to find out if they were reforming for a further push, he was sent from Dimapur with a 40-strong group of Gurkhas, to locate groups of Japanese forces, identify their strengths and their organised status.

Discretionary attacks on isolated Japanese groups were permitted (no prisoners to be taken), as was destruction of supply dumps. One particular Gurkha officer under whom James Gow operated was Major William Lindon-Travers, later to become Bill Travers, the well-known actor of Born Free fame.

Other

SOE’s French Indo-China Section (1943-1945)

Force 136 played only a minor part in attempts to organise local resistance in French Indochina, led mainly by Roger Blaizot, commander of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps (FEFEO) and General Eugène Mordant, chief of the military resistance. From 1944 to 1945 long-range B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft attached to Force 136 dropped 40 “Jedburgh” commandos from the French intelligence service BCRA, and agents from the Corps Léger d’Intervention also known as “Gaur“, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Huard, into Indochina. However Indochina was not originally part of the South-East Asian theatre, and therefore not SOE’s responsibility. Notable French Force 136 members dropped in Laos in 1945 include: Jean Deuve (January 22), Jean Le Morillon (February 28), Jean Sassi (June 4)[4], Bob Maloubier (August)[4]

There were also American reservations over restoring the French colonial regime after the war, which led the Americans eventually to support the anti-French Viet Minh.[5] Together with the complexities of the relationships between the Vichy-leaning officials in Indochina, and the rival Giraudist and de Gaullist resistance movements, this made liaison very difficult. SOE had few links with the indigenous Viet Minh movement.
Dutch East Indies & Australia
Except for the island of Sumatra, the Dutch East Indies were also outside South East Asia Command’s area of responsibility until after the Japanese surrender. In 1943, an invasion of Sumatra, codenamed Operation Culverin, was tentatively planned. SOE mounted some reconnaissances of northern Sumatra (in the present-day province of Aceh). In the event, the plan was cancelled, and nothing came of SOE’s small-scale efforts in Sumatra.

Another combined Allied intelligence organisation, Special Operations Australia (SOA), which had the British codename Force 137, operated out of Australia against Japanese targets in Singapore, the other islands of the Dutch East Indies, and Borneo. It included Z Special Unit, which carried out a successful attack on shipping in Singapore Harbour, known as Operation Jaywick.

Communications

Until mid-1944, Force 136’s operations were hampered by the great distances involved; for example, from Ceylon to Malaya and back required a flight of 2,800 miles (4,500 km). Such distances also made it difficult to use small clandestine craft to deliver supplies or personnel by sea (although such craft were used to supply the MPAJA in Perak late in the war). The Royal Navy made few submarines available to Force 136. Eventually, converted B-24 Liberator aircraft were made available to parachute agents and stores.

In Burma, where the distances involved were not so great, C-47 transport aircraft could be used. Westland Lysander liaison aircraft could also be used over shorter distances.

Notes

1. Bayly and Harper, p.262

2. Bayly and Harper, p.453

3. Bayly and Harper, p.348

4. a b Le Journal du Monde news, Patricia Lemonière, 2009

5. Silent Partners: SOE’s French Indo-China Section, 1943–1945, MARTIN THOMAS, Modern Asian Studies (2000), 34 : 943-976 Cambridge University Press

Sources

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