#DailyPrompt: UnsungHeroes

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Unsung Heroes.”

Treptow Park, BerlinYour face haunts my sleepless nights, so far away and yet so familiar,

I see the immense plain, covered with snow, and the litter of war, to the horizon.

Victory was then still deep in your future, but I know now that you saw the wings,

The songs, the invincible armies, in the Spring of what you hoped would be

A world without war.

We will never forget.

In a deep well, reflections on reading Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-up Bird ChronicleIt is a rare writer who can combine the spectra of recent history in its full horror, the dreams of love, and the mysteries of the soul. So is Monsieur Murakami.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was published in Japan in 1995, and once again, I regretted my inability to read the novel in the writer’s language. Yet Jay Rubin’s translation is a wonder on its own right. This was perhaps, for this reader, the most difficult Murakami’s novel so far, considerably harder reading than 1Q84 or, my all-time favourite, Kafka on the Shore. Kafka’s influence, among many others, is there, for the central character, Toru Okada, has to endure a metamorphosis of his own, once the house cat disappears, shortly followed by mysterious and fragile Kumiko, Toru’s wife.

However I won’t spoil this read for my followers, those who haven’t yet read this extraordinary work. The story is rooted in the memories of the atrocious war fought on the periphery of the Asian continent, in the country Imperial Japan named Manchukuo. There the Japanese army faced the might of the Soviet Union, from the late thirties, before the war extended to the whole of Asia and Europe.

Perhaps uniquely in its descriptions, the Wind-up Bird Chronicle is pitiless in plunging the reader in the depth of man’s inhumanity to man, and nature. Toru, surrounded by strange women who may not all be human, just about survives the metamorphosis imposed on him, through the grace of friendship, and the skills of his protector, unforgettable Nutmeg. The truth, factual or not, is to be found at the bottom of the well.

In the strange loops that link the characters, across time and spaces, humble objects such a red vinyl hat, or a baseball hat, there resides the mystery of the human soul. And a small cat’s tail…

 

#AtoZChallenge: April 29, 2013 ~ Yalta (Conference)

Yalta Conference, February 4-11, 1945

Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference in February 1945 with (from left to right) Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. Also present are USSR Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (far left); Field Marshal Alan Brooke, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, RN, Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Portal, RAF, (standing behind Churchill); George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, (standing behind Roosevelt).

It was their last meeting, the last Allies Conference of the War, that was to reorganise Europe in “peace-time”.  WWII was drawing to a close: soon Hitler would be dead in the ruins of Berlin, soon the USSR, and her martyrs, would win the war, at last, at the price of 25 million dead.

Soon President Roosevelt would die.  The former Allies would become the enemies of the Cold War.  Atomics would be dropped on defenceless Japanese cities.  When they meet again in Potsdam, in August 1945, Truman is President, the dice are down, and the Cold War has started, in all but the name.  But still, in this cold month of February, 1945, it was possible to hope… against all hopes.  German refugees were flowing through the ruined roads and cities of central Europe, in their millions.  For the next 45 years Germany would be a divided country.

In the US Roosevelt’s New Deal would survive in the guise the warfare/welfare state till the late 70’s, then other demons would take over.

Britain was a shadow of her former self, then a hopelessly indebted country, the country soon of  Orwell’s “1984” –  of food rationing perduring till the 50’s, still a colonial power, although not for much longer.

The long night of Stalinism would last until 1954, the year a French army was defeated in Dien-Bien-Phu in what would be soon called the Republic of North-Viet-Nam, and was still then “l’ Indochine”, and the United Nations (chiefly the US and Britain) would stop bombing what was already North-Korea.