24 October 2007

Our Madness

Filed under: Fiction — ktismatics @ 9:41 am

He remembered how long it had been since he last heard his mother’s voice. This last time it was through his wife that he had finally managed to learn what she had said about his dead father. When it came to talk of his father in particular, he couldn’t even recall when last he had heard his mother’s voice. When she spoke to his wife, she had apparently referred to his father as “the man.” The Man. The fat man was reminded of a line from a wartime poem by an English poet, actually it resided in him always, as if it were his prayer. Like the Pure Land hymns which had resided in his grandmother until the day she died, it was part of his body and his spirit. And the poem itself happened to be a prayer spoken at the height of the very battle in which his father had lost his Chinese friends one after the other. The voice of Man: “O, teach us to outgrow our madness.” If that voice is the voice of the Man, then “our madness” means the Man’s and mine, the fat man told himself for the first time.

– from Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness by Kenzaburo Ōe

* * *

Night falls on China,
The great arc of travelling shadow,
Moves over land and ocean, altering life…

O teach us to outgrow our madness.
Ruffle the perfect manners of the frozen heart, And once again compel it to be awkward and alive… Clear from the head the masses of impressive rubbish; Rally the lost and trembling forces of the will, Gather them up and let them loose upon the earth…

And now I hear the hum of printing presses; Turning forests into lies…

– “Night Falls on China,” by W.H. Auden


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