Monday, November 9, 2009

Honesty and Trust

First, the photo is a map I used for the book festival. Yamamoto Shoten(山本書店)is the leftmost bookstore that I circled in red. Can you see? That’s where I purchased Rojin’s books.

I translated the following excerpt from “Midsummer Tales” by Rojin or Lu Xun.
I became interested in him and his work when I read a complaint by a Japanese linguist who translated Yusen-kutu (Taverns of Disporting Fairies). Yusen-kutu is from the Tang period of China. I don’t remember the name of the linguist/translator, so I refer him as he. He wrote a few negative sentences about Lu Xun. It was something like this: “Lu Xun knew the fact Yusen-kutu was discovered by Japanese and studied extensively over many centuries, but Lu Xun wrote and published the opposite.”

I wondered what went through Lu Xun’s head when he had to write that. Chinese government then was corrupt. Chinese in China were oppressed by the Japanese military. He struggled between two countries and for his people’s freedom. Lu Xun spoke and wrote Japanese. He studied in Japan for eight years. What went through his mind? I want to know.

Below, Lu Xun wrote it toward the end of his life in Shanghai. I’m not crying, but I wish I can.


A “B, we trusted you. You seemed a fine person, so we let you in on the
revolution. Why did you squeal to the enemy?”

B “No way! Squeal! I only told them because they asked.”

A “Couldn’t you just keep saying you don’t know?”

B “No, no! I’ve never told a lie since I was born. I’m not such an
untrustworthy person.”


A “Oh, hello, Mr. B. It’s been three years. You were probably very
disappointed in me, weren’t you?”

B “No, not really. Why?”

A “I told you then. I was going to the West Lake and write 20,000 long
poems. I haven’t written a word up to now. Ha ha ha!

B “Well…..but I’m not a bit disappointed.”

A “You’ve gotten better at spoken words, haven’t you? You remember things
well, you’ve known to blame others quite severely, and you’re not the kind
of person who can reply with wishy-washy words. Everyone knows it. Are
you able to lie now?”

B “No, I’d never lie.”

A “Then, you’re not disappointed in me, right?”

B “No. There is nothing to be disappointed. After all, I’ve never trusted
you in the first place.”


Vincent said...

So - Lu Xun and Rojin are one and the same. Did you get the full set of volumes in the end, when you bought 60 books when they were closing?

Looking at the photos of Lu Xun on Wikipedia, I have to say (as a Westerner) that I find his oriental face typically inscrutable, as if it were a mask hiding his feelings. But I think the same could be said of me. And when I look again at the photo of him as an adult, he seems to be full of compassion and concern.

Your translation is very good idiomatic English.

keiko amano said...

Hi Vincent,

It’s funny about the photo. I had a similar thought looking at the photo in my book which was taken a year before he died. I hope to show you that. It shows his sorrow and struggles. More I read, more connected I feel to the writer and the culture.

About the rest of the volumes, no, I couldn’t find them on Nov. 3rd. But I’m thinking of going back to the bookstore and search again. I didn’t have much time, so I maybe missed it.

In the book I read, the editor says his novels are not well developed except a few. I read a few, so I can understand why some critics would say that. But the stories are very rich in Chinese culture and the era he lived. They are very lively. Everything I read so far satisfied my thirst of knowing more about Chinese culture and a Chinese writer.

Rebb said...

Keiko, this is very new territory for me. I’m glad to be able to learn about a new world from your blog. I can see how it will become clearer to me as I read your blogs about the more to it-ness of Japanese Literature.

The excerpt you translated really makes me think about when it’s appropriate to “lie” if its for the better. On a personal level, I have grappled with this. I don’t like to lie, but sometimes, it is necessary if what you are up against would not be able to take the truth or if one needs to protect their own. And I don’t mean with trivial matters. Honesty and Trust. As I write those words, they look foreign to me as words. They seem one and the same, yet, not. You’ve given me much to think about, Keiko, in the context of your blog, personally, and in the world.

keiko amano said...


Lu Xun wrote the above conversation close to his death after many years of his literary and political struggles between China and Japan. He was the most tired person when he wrote this. You can see his sorrow and suffering from his face. As you can imagine, I’m sure he meant no moral lesson to anyone because he found none. The conversation was meant to be a caricature.

He went to Japan before Russo Japanese War to study medicine, but he switched to writing career probably because medicine career was too tame to change his country. China was no longer like old shining Tang dynasty or Hun Dynasty. It was the most demoralizing time. It was very very tough for young Chinese wanting to rebuild own county while they had no control over western and Japanese military powers. He was going through many compromising situations with Japanese and also Chinese authorities. He left many letters which I was reading. He was polite to the Japanese who cared for him. Reading them, I feel his pain. How confusing and demoralizing for him to live in such turmoil.

Rebb said...

Thank you for providing some background for me, Keiko. How very sad.