Wild Days in Northeast Asia

North Korea tests another nuclear weapon, hinting at domestic stability for an uncertain population.  Certainly the hard-liners seem to be in control.

Nancy Pelosi, in Shanghai, condemns the test along with the rest of the Americans and Northeast Asian allies, including China.  Yahoo very sloppily denoted that human rights protests were going on in China in anticipation of Pelosi’s visit.

The sourcing of these reports is very unclear and the Chinese website (Boxun) to which they are traced is actually an article about a murder case in Hangzhou!  This is sloppy reporting, Wall Street Journal!  What the protests appear to be are on going rafts of petitioners at the Supreme Court in southern Beijing who will latch on to anything they can get so that their very specific [and yes, often vaguely human-rights related] cases can be heard.  But in general, the idea that Nancy Pelosi has a following in China of people who will spring up and stand versus the government at the calling of her (or the Dalai Lama’s name) is quite ludicrous; in fact she is a somewhat reviled figure among nationalist circles.

And then we have the suicide of Noh Moo-hyun.  What is of interest here is how Xinhua, the Chinese press, soft-pedaled the story for the Chinese people.  Soon after the news broke, headlines on Xinhua.com read “Noh Moo-Hyun Suddenly Found Dead; Suicide Suspected” while the CCP figured out how to break the idea that the country’s highest former executive had taken his own life over shame on corruption charges.  Don’t you think that some Chinese laobaixing would feel vindicated if a few top corrupt officials, too, decided to take their own lives as a strange means of balancing the scales with the people they fleeced?  But we should support China even its very strange way of rooting out corruption; with just one party, it ain’t easy.

The End / am Endlichkeit

Die Jahr ist vorbei, die Fröhling ist Voll.

Im Herz hab ich Dankbarkeit, dass ich lebe noch wohl.

Wie Schwan/gesang des’ Lohengrins, jetzt schwimme ich ab,

Für Küsten, für Örten, wo mann fremden sprach.

Hinab, und wieder, und weiter, und Vor!

und bin ich nicht willig, so brauch ich Freude!

Gestalt, o wie plötzlich, macht Frieden es Frei

bewegt sich nach Frankreich, wo Kanzlerin sei!

und dannach wird furchten, weil sie mich nicht Liebt

mit wutvollem Herz, dass mich selbst verdient

(und endlich so!): die 内容 von Heine zu verstehen.

Dalai Lama in Europe

Xinhua is upset: the Dalai Lama is planning to arrive in France from June 6-8 to become an honorary citizen of Paris. While the national government of France has pledged that no federal officials will meet with him, the mayor of Paris is offering the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship (and thus the trip).

Here he is in Paris in 2003, giving an interview (the present link is also in French translation, with better links than the YouTube version):

Chinese media notes that the visit could again destabilize Sino-French relations, and asserts that the timing of the visit is intended to maximize global visibility (it is planned for the day after Obama’s trip to Normandy to commemorate the D-Day invasion of 1944).

Xinhua has also put together a nicely gigantic surveillance page of Sarkozy and the French government.

France24 has some solid analysis and video on this.

Fortunately, China is already gearing up for what is sure to be an outsized campaign called “I Love You, China” to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the People’s Republic this coming October 1.




1。 据我所了解,萨特《自由之路》第三本书《心灵之死》还没有翻译成中文。 安徽文艺出版社除外,这受欢迎的出版物[可以在豆瓣查]是个另外小说的文集。如《心灵之死》翻译过来的话,中国学者和读者就可能比较萨《心灵之死》与中国抗战时期的文学作品。因为我们必须继续讨论抗战时期的汉奸化和战败化对中国社会的影响,对不对? (法国就这样,中国怎么可能不看自己在历史的镜子? 或者是现代的国际花已经和永远泡汤中国“孤芳自赏” 的能力?) 如果读者知道任何信息关一个《心灵之死》的中文版,请留言或留 个评论/建议在comments 上。

2。在2005年的抗日战争胜利六十周年纪念活动中,中央戏剧院演出了萨特1946写的戏剧,。。。。该说,这片戏剧画了法国游击队和地下抗议者的活动;对中国共产党来说,这个戏剧的思想方面没有一个问题的, 根中国中央历史故事比较细微的区别 (完全抗议,在游击队有些分派注意的问题,但基本上他们的抗议化超过什么都。。。)

3。 现代中国文学家还用萨特的战后概念:《心灵之死〉 胡发云 [Hu Fayun] 在李静的采访中,提出一个特别深的想法:

◎胡:文学是一种关涉人类心灵的活动,当越来越多的人们只生活在表面,只生活在今天,只生活在与心灵无关的信息之海和欲望之海中,文学的处境是可以 想 见的。但是这已经不是文学的悲哀。19世纪末,有人说:上帝死了。20世纪末,有人说:革命死了。在一个漫长的物质主义时代开始之际,是不是会有人说:心 灵死了?

所以说,萨特思想永远不死! 真了不起。 但是我们还会担心,我们现在的21世纪要创造什么坏过程。。。我本人希望抗议现代化的坏事; 看老书就是个日常能做的抗议。

- 6。 以后在继续

Sartre / Cultures of Defeat [IV]

“It was true, of course, that he thoroughly disapproved of melancholy, but when the mood was on one, it was the very devil to shake it off.  ‘I must have an unhappy temperament,’ he thought.  There were many reasons why he should rejoice…Instead…he was thinking: ‘I have outlived my day,’ and the knowledge was bitter to him.  When one is melancholy, reasons for rejoicing beccome melancholy, too, so that one rejoices in a melancholy way.” [p. 61]

This opening to the chapter entitled “Marseille, 2 p.m.” of Volume III of Chemins de la Liberte, goes on to explain how he, described above, is Francillon, a “second-rater” who “had for all purposes died at Sedan in May 1940.”  [p. 61]  For he and his interlocutor, Boris, all wars are alike.  And thinking of the novel’s protagonist, Mathieu, Boris notes to himself:

“Suppose my anxiety to get away is dciatated by pure egotism, because I dread getting shit on in civilian life?  Maybe I’m out for no more than adventure.  Maybe it’s easier to get yourself killed than to go on living.”  [p. 65]  Again the divide between individual motives and societal definitions of heroic resistance is raised here.  And, interestingly, Boris’ thoughts unfold amid a long dialogue with Francillon about the ethics of getting a woman into bed.  

However, the subject changes to Russia, Boris’ ostensible native land, and he reflects with his female comrade Ivich on the idea of  France.

‘I loathe the French,’ she said.

A man who was reading his paper near by looked up at them dreamily…

‘I loathe them, I loathe them,’ she insisted.

‘You loathe them because they make bad coffee!’

‘I loathe them for everything.’

Boris had hoped that the storm would abate of itself but now he saw he was wrong; he must face the music.

‘I’m fond of the French,’ he said.  ‘Now they’ve lost the war, everybody jumps on them; but I’ve seen them fighting, and I know they did all they could.’

‘There,’ said Ivich,’you see!…Why do you say they did everything they could?  If you felt like a Frenchman, you’d have said we.’

Sartre / Cultures of Defeat [III]

In the concluding volume of his trilogy, Chemins de la Liberte, Sartre notes the futility of ascribing war to individuals as if it were some sort of moral choice. In a conversation with his comrade Pinette, the protagonist Mathieu thinks to himself: Everything is asking us for our opinion. Everything! We are encircled by questions: the whole thing’s a farce. Questions are asked of us as though we were men, as though somebody wanted to make us believe we are still men.”

Mathieu’s attitude of moral agency, even if ambivalent, grates upon his companion. Pinette, with whom the professor will later be killed, retorts: “What’s the use of having an opinion? You’re not going to decide.” And here Sartre, via his protagonist, ignites a trail around the idea of defeat.

“He [Mathieu] stopped talking. He thought suddenly: life has got to go on. Day after day we have got to gather in the rotten fruit of defeat, to work out in a world that has gone to pieces that total choice I have just refused to make. But, good God! I didn’t choose this war, nor this defeat; by what phony trick must I assume responsibility for them?

“He was conscious within himself of the panic fury of the trapped beast, and, looking up, saw the same fury in the eyes of his comrades. Let them clamor to the skies: ‘We have nothing to do with this mess! We are guiltless!’ His passion ebbed; oh yes, to be sure, innocence was in the morning sunlight, you could touch it on the blades of grass, an almost tangible presence. But it was a lying presence: what was true was the indefinable fault that they had all committed, our fault. A phantom war, a phantom defeat, a phantom guilt.” It is only after following Mathieu through this furious line of thought that one realizes he never responds directly to Pinette; there is, ultimately, no use in having an opinion. [pp. 59-60].

Now, to contrast this with Chinese resistance literature! Village in August is a classic specimen, and also served a function in China’s international propaganda during World War II via its translation into English in 1942. (And it is one hell of a translation, to my recollection.) In Village, a certain futile strain exists, but it has to do with the impacts of attacking the Japanese locally, not the savage absurdity of the war itself.

Along the further lines of comparison:

Lao She’s resistance dramas are now available in French….

Lao She’s series of novels, “Four Generations Under One Roof /四世同堂” (about a family living under Japanese occupation) is now being made into a mini-series in China; it has also been the subject of an academic conference.

The fantastic-mind-of-our-time Friedrich Spotts (author of Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics) has a new book, commented on here by poet Ron Slate, on French artists under Nazi occupation.

Uighurs in Guantanamo – Will Nine Go to Munich?

Hamburg’s Die Zeit features a brace of editorials debating if Germany should accept the request of the Obama administration to take 9 of the 17 remaining Uighur detainees from Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay in order to facilitate the closing of the prison there. The Uighurs have the ability to destabilize relations with the PRC, however, since both the US and the PRC agree that the ETIM [East Turkestan Independence Movement] is a terrorist organization.

Here are my just-posted YouTube readings and [soon-to-arrive] thumbnail translations of the editorials, which are pretty fresh”

and some background news, including an interview with their lawyer, from Voice of America:

Here is my partial translation of the article below:

But [of course we should accept the Uighurs, it is] self-explanatory!  Practicality and humaneness require us to accept the request of the United States.  Barack Obama had hardly been in office for 48 hours when he already made it known that he intended to close the Guantanamo prison camp within one year.  For this he deserves highest recognition – and every [possible] assistance.

Recall that the Europeans had for years pressured [gedrängt] George W. Bush to put an end to this instutitionalized law-breaking.  [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel put it this way: “The existence of this prison is not in accordance with my understanding of respect for human rights [Rechtsstaatlichkeit].”

Our answer to the question of the Americans can only be enunciated thus: Whichever [of the convicts] is unguilty, whoever for understandable reasons the Americans do not want to have making their new homes in the U.S., whoever also cannot go back to their [original] homes on account of new anguish that would fall upon them, can find refuge with us.

In the meantime, here is the full text of the pro argument which I read above [no further text by me in this post, it is exclusively from Die Zeit]:


Sollen wir Uiguren aufnehmen?

JA sagt Matthias Naß: Das ist politisch klug

Häftlinge im US-Lager Guantánamo auf Kuba: Soll Deutschland neun freigelassene chinesische Uiguren von dort aufnehmen?

Häftlinge im US-Lager Guantánamo auf Kuba: Soll Deutschland neun freigelassene chinesische Uiguren von dort aufnehmen?

Die Namen von neun Uiguren stehen auf der Liste, die Barack Obamas Sondergesandter Daniel Fried unlängst der deutschen Regierung überreicht hat. Sie sitzen derzeit wie etwa 250 andere Häftlinge im US-Ge fangenenlager Guantánamo auf Kuba. Deutschland, so die Bitte der Regierung Obama, möge die Uiguren aufnehmen, um die Schließung des Lagers zu erleichtern. Nach Einschätzung eines US-Gerichts stellen die neun keine Gefahr dar. In ihrer Heimat in China drohen ihnen neuerlich Haft und Folter. Soll Deutschland den Männern Asyl gewähren? Darüber ist in der Großen Koalition in Berlin heftiger Streit entbrannt. Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) ist für ei ne Aufnahme, Innenminister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), aber auch einige SPD-Innenpolitiker widersprechen.

Aber selbstverständlich! Vernunft und Menschlichkeit gebieten es, der Bitte der Vereinigten Staaten nachzukommen. Barack Obama war keine 48 Stunden im Amt, da hatte er schon verfügt, das Gefangenenlager Guantánamo innerhalb eines Jahres zu schließen. Ihm gebührt dafür höchste Anerkennung – und jede Hilfe.

Schließlich haben die Europäer George W. Bush jahrelang gedrängt, dem institutionalisierten Rechtsbruch ein Ende zu setzen. Angela Merkel hat es so gesagt: »Der Einsatz solcher Gefängnisse ist nicht vereinbar mit meinem Verständnis von Rechtsstaatlichkeit.« Nun, endlich, soll das schändliche Kapitel abgeschlossen werden.

Unsere Antwort auf die Anfrage der Amerikaner kann deshalb nur lauten: Wessen Unschuld erwiesen ist; wer Amerika nach überstandener Folter verständlicherweise nicht zu seiner neuen Heimat machen möchte; wer aber auch nicht nach Hause zurückkehren kann, weil ihm dort neuerliche Verfolgung droht, der sollte bei uns Aufnahme finden.

Nun aber haben scheinheilige Hüter der Inneren und Äußeren Sicherheit einen Streit entfesselt, als wollten die Amerikaner unsere Sicherheit aus den Angeln heben! Als wollten sie sich trickreich vor Schadensersatzprozessen schützen (die doch von München aus genauso leicht zu führen sind). Als wollten sie den Zorn Pekings, das in den Guantánamo-Uiguren lauter ostturkestanische Terroristen sieht, auf die naiven Deutschen umlenken (die doch nach dem Dalai-Lama-Empfang im Kanzleramt längst wieder gute Geschäfte mit China machen).

US-Vizepräsident Joe Biden hat beteuert: »Die Leute sind wirklich unschuldig. Wir sind bereit, sie nach allen unseren Kräften zu unterstützen, damit sie sich schnell integrieren können.« Natürlich, man kann den Chinesen mehr glauben als Biden. Man kann und man sollte mögliche Verbindungen der Uiguren zur separatistischen Islamischen Bewegung Ostturkestan prüfen.

Nur ist bei all den Rufen nach »mehr Informationen« vor allem eines herauszuhören: Ausreden, Ausreden, Ausreden! Es ist die alte moralische Wurstigkeit, die schon der Kanzleramtschef Frank-Walter Steinmeier im Fall Murat Kurnaz offenbarte. Irgendwas wird an den Vorwürfen schon dran sein! Im Übrigen: Was geht uns das alles an?

Aber reden wir nicht von Moral, reden wir von politischer Klugheit. Guantánamo ist in der islamischen Welt zum Synonym für die Doppelmoral des Westens geworden. Wohlgemerkt: des Westens, nicht Amerikas allein. Denn europäische Staaten waren beteiligt – weil Flugzeuge der CIA hier zwischenlandeten; weil es Indizien dafür gibt, dass auch in Europa Gefängniszellen zu Folterstätten wurden; weil Verdächtige nach Syrien, Pakistan oder Ägypten überstellt wurden, wohl wissend, was ihnen dort bevorstand.

Nun kommt Barack Obama, sucht das Gespräch mit den Muslimen, will die Ignoranz, den Hass der Bush-Jahre überwinden. Und beginnt dieses Gespräch mit der einzig richtigen Geste: Guantánamo zu schließen. Und wir wollen ihm dabei nicht helfen? Wenn wir den Respekt der Welt – und den Respekt vor uns selbst – verspielen möchten, wäre dies der richtige Weg.


A few weeks ago I ran across a term in one of my favorite books, a French-English-Chinese dictionary published by one of my new favorite publishers (Youfeng in the 13th arrondissement of Paris).

The term is “tohu-bohu,” meaning confusion or hubbub…and after some searching, I have found it to be quite controversial! This wonderful posting by a young and insouciant linguist elevates the term to one ripe for denunciation; it is, he argues, “a word which must be forgotten.” Apparently too much contact with Zola’s Germinal has rendered it a relic of the 19th century. But it is easily remembered thereby!

Much more on Youfeng’s new offerings and Chinese theater forthwith!

Walter Kirn, 明尼苏达州的作家

Walter Kirn, the highly-talented essayist and prose-pusher, is publishing a memoir of his academic youth entitled Lost in the Meritocracy, the affecting first chapter of which is available here.

I love Kirn’s writing because it is unaffected and he writes about the truth. He is also one of two well-known writers that hail from Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota. (The other is Garrison Keillor, who grew up in Anoka but who moved to Marine, rubbing shoulders with my father and mother in the 1960s and 1970s before I was born.) Kirn is of a generation removed from me, a bit older, but our moms are friends, we’re all from Marine, and so I follow his work.

In Pete Seegeresque terms, he and I were coded with the same lyrical DNA: “Marine School is my school/and my school is Marine School/I go to school here/and so do you/so let’s all shout hooray…”

(and as a war anthem might stir an old Edwardian ["by jingo if they do"], the very rhythm of the words brings a tingle to the spine even here in distant Seattle)

Apparently now he is ensconced in Montana, ostensibly the ideal place for drafting prose memoirs. Meanwhile, I, that other son of Marine’s fecund writerly womb, will be drafting and redrafting and stumbling and heaving my body and dictionaries across oceans and borders in order that I might craft a different, less North American, identity and experience in, say, Yanji (延吉) where the land is thick with ethnic Koreans and the salts of separatism. Becoming separate. That Marine itself might expand.

Walter Kirn: your truths make me squirm, reflect, underscore the brutalities of banality, perceive the shroud of localisms (which perhaps are tragically universal among North American males of a certain age). Wrought from something which is both delicate and iron-hearted, a new man emerges out of the slag.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers