Lieutenant Lookeast and Other Stories

By Masuji Ibuse

Trans John Bester

collection of works spanning many years of Masuji Ibuse's writing career

Plum Blossom by way of Night
Lieutenant Lookeast
Pilgrims’ Inn
Old Ushitora
Life at Mr. Tange’s
Yosaku the Settler
Savan on the Roof
Tajinko Village

FROM Preface
The paintings o f Masuji Ibuse is an bought style; now not within the sense
that it is tough to get pleasure from on first examining, yet in the feel that
extensive acquaintance with it deepens one’s excitement and under­
standing o f its art.
At seventy-three, Ibuse can glance again over a huge and varied
output, from the 1923 “ Salamander” to Black Rain, the 1965 novel
on Hiroshima, and past. such a lot o f it, with the exception o f
Black Rain, is composed o f items o f brief or medium length—which is
one cause, possibly, why he has been much less translated than some
other jap writers o f related stature.
The diversity o f subject matters, as the ten tales in this ebook exhibit, is
wide. There are the early, extra consciously literary and intellectual
pieces with a powerful aspect o f fable such as “ Salamander.”
There are semi-autobiographical items such as “ Carp” (1926).
Other relatively early items, o f which “ Plum Blossom by
Night” (1930) is an effective instance, appear to owe extra, either in form
and demeanour, to the eu brief story.
There is a physique o f tales on ancient issues, represented here
by “Yosaku the Settler” (1955). it's a attribute of those that,
while occasionally drawing seriously on documentary assets, they
succeed by way of what look to be the least difficult o f capacity in giving the
characters humanity, the atmosphere a feeling o f reality, and the theme
a common relevance. The comparable ability was once to serve Ibuse in good
stead whilst, in Black Rain, he created a paintings o f paintings out o f a mass
o f firsthand bills o f the bombing o f Hiroshima.
There are many scenes o f kingdom existence that express, alongside with a
vivid appreciation o f the virtues and shortcomings o f the Japanese
peasant, a vein o f mild humor that is chanced on at its broadest in
“ outdated Ushitora” (1950). sometimes, as within the identify tale, “ Lieut­
enant Lookeast” (1950), the humor provides strategy to biting satire; to
read this paintings is to observe the depth o f feeling that lies behind
the mild mocking o f human foibles.
In a relatively huge team o f medium-length tales, not often novels
in the accredited feel, a vital figure—a village policeman, a
doctor, an worker at an inn—serves as the connecting hyperlink for
a sequence o f loosely hooked up episodes. those episodes diversity from
the briefest o f images, meant to cartoon in one human being
with a number of telling strokes o f discussion or description, to extra or less
self-contained brief tales. those works, o f which “ Tajinko V il­
lage” (1939) is a stable instance, count much less on an total form
than at the sluggish building-up o f a personality and the portrayal of
a manner o f lifestyles in a specific part o f society. hence a paintings like
“ Tajinko V illage” can inform one extra approximately prewar rural society
in Japan—and in particular its solidly human qualities—than many
a sociological study.
Some works, ultimately, such as the notable “ lifestyles at Mr.
Tange’s” (1931), convey a blend o f realism and symbolism,
broad humor and poetry, realism and myth, that show Ibuse’s
techniques at their so much integral and defy classification.
Despite the range of subject matters, the tales percentage definite character­
istics o f procedure and demeanour. There is the absence of extended
descriptive passages, o f “fine writing” for its personal sake. Characters
and actual settings are sketched in with a few information that are
concrete and specific. round them, there is area. The effect
is to provide the characters anything o f the standard o f caricatures, or
o f actors on a degree: they are concurrently a bit of greater than
life and visible at a distance.
The writing is spare. rigorously molded pictures and fragments
o f discussion prevail every one different with no remark. The mood
changes subtly, frequently without warning. results are equipped up via setting
these diversified components subsequent to every one different with out unnecessary
padding. The effect is o f a self-effacement on the half o f the
author that extends to a dislike o f underscoring any aspect too
heavily. The discussion makes its issues slyly; occasionally the mo­
tives, even the motion itself, are half-concealed.
This dislike o f too truly said positions is one o f the most
marked beneficial properties o f the character that emerges from Ibuse’s work.
Yet one feels that the paradox isn't an indication o f weak point, yet o f a
conscious distaste for assertive statements, based in a fullness o f
experience. coming up from the interplay o f parts that are in­
trinsically robust, it comes to be felt as constituting, in itself, a
positive statement.
The different noticeable features o f the author’s character are
humor and compassion, well-worn if basic virtues that are
dispensed in a combination atypical to Ibuse. The humor is frequently gently
mocking, directed now at a specific person (the hero of
“ Plum Blossom through Night” ), now at highbrow pretension
(“ Salamander” ), now at genteel prudery (the extinguishing o f the
lamp earlier than the mating o f Myokendo’s cow in “ previous Ushitora” ),
now at the author’s personal individual (the author from Tokyo, additionally in
“ outdated Ushitora” ) . from time to time, as in “ Carp,” it nearly turns out a weapon
o f self-defense opposed to an extra o f feeling.
The compassion is occasionally, as in “Yosaku the Settler,” im ­
plicit in the subject matter o f the tale. yet it is at its subtlest and most
effective while it combines with humor, as in the passage in
“Yosaku” the place the thief imagines himself returning one day to
die in the imperial tomb that he has helped to rifle, or in Mr.
Tange’s memories and the arrival o f Ei’s spouse in “ lifestyles at Mr.
Humor, compassion, a plebeian caliber, an absence o f senti­
mentality, a indifferent, virtually satirical view o f humanity, abrupt­
ness, a sophisticated poetry, a robust feeling for the japanese countryside
in its unprettified actuality—it is no ask yourself that a few Japanese
critics have pointed out a similarity among Ibuse and Hokusai,
especially the Hokusai o f the “ Thirty-Six perspectives o f Mt. Fuji.” And
once the resemblance is famous, it truly is tempting to remember additionally Hoku­
sai’s modern, Hiroshige, together with his romanticism, sentimental­
ity, lyrical feeling for colour, and his better urbanity, and to see
the artists as representing opposing features o f the Japanese
character that can be detected in literature as good as in artwork. Yet
whether that parallel can be validly drawn or now not, it's definite at
least that Ibuse’s paintings has a energy and deep-lying humanity
that merits consciousness in the West either for its personal sake and for
the gentle it throws on the japanese character.
John Bester

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No, there is not any one like him for awesome an entire number of poses in response to his specific fancy. The salamander made no try and open its eyelids; for to open and close his eyelids used to be the single freedom, the one threat that he were granted. W hat a mystifying factor came about in the back of his eyelids accordingly! T he uncomplicated formulation of remaining his eyes gave him command of an enormous blackness. T he blackness used to be a gulf that stretched away into infinity. Who may well locate phrases to explain the intensity or breadth of that gulf? i'd implore the reader as soon as m ore: don't, i encourage, scorn the salamander for being so banal. Even a warder in a prison, until he's in a very tough temper, might scarcely reprimand a lifestyles prisoner for giving vent to a unnecessary sigh. “Ah, the chillier its will get the lonelier i think. ” not anyone with an attentive center may have ignored the sala­ mander’s sobbing from contained in the cave. however it is uncertain coverage to depart somebody sunk indefinitely in sorrow. T he salamander should have bought a unpleasant dis­ place, for in the future he stopped a frog who had strayed into the cave from getting out back. W rooster the salamander’s head corked up the window o f the cave, the frog used to be so panic-stricken that he climbed up the rocky wall o f the cave and leapt onto the ceiling, the place he clung to the scales of the liverwort. It was once the exact same sixty three frog that had aroused the salamander’s envy by means of capturing so power­ ously from the depths to the skin of the pool, and from the skin again to the depths back. may still he be careless sufficient to slide and fall, the depraved salamander was once there, anticipating him. to put the opposite animal within the comparable state of affairs as him self af­ forded the salamander beautiful excitement. “ I ’ll close him up right here all his lifestyles! ” The curses o f the depraved are potent, if just for a time. Step­ ping conscientiously, the frog bought right into a hole within the wall. And believing him self secure, he placed out his head from the hole and acknowledged : “ I don’t care! ” “ Come ou t! ” roared the salamander. And so began a fierce altercation among the 2. “ I ’ll please myself no matter if I pop out or now not. ” “All correct. you could please your self so long as you love. ” “You’re a idiot. ” “ You’re a idiot. ” numerous instances they repeated the alternate. tomorrow too, they maintained, within the related phrases, their very own unyielding posi­ tions. A yr rolled by way of. the heat of the water in early summer season replaced the pris­ oners within the cave from lumps of mineral again into creatures o f flesh and blood. So the 2 dwelling creatures, for this reason, spent the entire summer time within the following argument (it had already dawned at the salamander’s spouse that the salamander’s head had grown too huge to permit him to go away the cave) : “ You’re the single whose head will get caught so that you can’t get out, aren’t you? ” “ not more are you able to get out of the place you're! ” “W hy don’t you exit first then? ” “ No^yow come down from up there! ” one other 12 months handed. O nce extra, the 2 lumps o f mineral sixty four were reworked into dwelling creatures.

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