Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Blind Chinese Soldiers" by Hirabayashi Taiko

"Blind Chinese Soldiers" by Hirabayashi Taiko 平林 たい子   (1946, 5 pages)

One of the First Post War Japanese Works
Critical of the Military

Hirabayashi Taiko (1905 to 1972, Japan) decided she wanted to be a writer at age 12.   In 1946 she won the first post WWII award for best literary achievement by a woman.   The in English biographical data on her is not real informative.   She won several high prestige literary awards and was interested in Japan yakuza.   Based on checking Amazon and Goodreads, it appears this story maybe the only one of her works that has been translated into English-the translator is Noriko Lippit.   If true this is a terrible shame as "Blind Chinese Soldiers" presents a very  powerful indictment of the horror and absurdities of war.  

I read seven Japanese short stories today from the great collection The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories edited by Thomas Goossen.   I was debating whether to post on them in groups or one by one.   In the case of "Blind Chinese Soldiers"  I decided to post on it individually because it presents a such  stunning image and because there is very little on this  author to be found in English on Google.   (I am sorry to say it cannot, as far as I can tell, be read online)

The story is set in a Tokyo railroad station.   The day is March 9, 1945, the day after a giant bombing raid on Tokyo.    The narrator describes himself as an intellectual turned farmer.   He (could be a woman also) notices that as a train pulls up to the station there are about 100 police on the train dock all carrying police batons.  Men in a orderly line in uniforms of the kind that Chinese soldiers drafted into the Japanese Army in Manchuria wore.   There are about 500 of the soldiers and all are blind.   Most are crying.   The Japanese military escorts treat them cruelly, hitting them with their sticks and telling them to hurry up.   People in Tokyo by 1945 were hardened to the horrors of war and nobody spoke up against the war but this shocks the people in the train station.   They ask the commander of the Japanese what happened to these men.  He says "Who knows" maybe they were hurt in an explosion or maybe in a gas war experiment.    Nobody wants to say to much but everyone is horrified and feels  the humanity of these men their government has used in the worse way.   After the war is over in a few months when the narrator is back in the station, he asks the station master what happened to the blind Chinese soldiers.    Nobody, of course, knows.

I guess this maybe my only experience with Hirabayashi Taiko.    I am very glad I was at least able to read this great short story.   

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

This is a book I want at some point, if only for this story, although I imagine It's full of gems. thanks for the introduction.

Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-this is a wonderful collection of short stories, beautifully produced and edited-thanks as always for your visits and comments

Unknown said...

The trouble with literature in translation is just this, so often I'm tantalized by a short story or a single novel only to find that's the only thing currently available in English in America. But I still seek literature in translation out anyway.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. I believe Japanese does have a distinction in spoken language between men and women, English doesn't.

Mel u said...

C. B. James-what you say is so true-thanks as always for your comments and visits

Mel u said...

Man of la Book-a very interesting observations-thanks very much for your comments and visits

me. said...

Thanks for posting on this story Mel, recently I read Taiko Hirabayashi's short story Kishi Mojin/The Goddess of Children and really enjoyed it, an intriguing mixture of folklore and social observation, I think I've got this story in a different anthology so I will give it a read soon.

Anonymous said...

Your posts always remind me of how many great authors there are that I've never heard about