Herz und mund und tat und terrorismus (heart, mouth, deed, and terrorism)
Hideto TSUBOI (translated by Alexander MURPHY)
ABSTRACT In a collection of poems written in 1911, Ishikawa Takuboku described the heart of the terrorist thus: “the one and only heart / where words and actions are inseparable.” Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the efforts of a terrorism that makes revolution its goal have sprung from the dream of this kind of unity between words and action. In Ōe Kenzaburō’s linked texts, “Seventeen,” published just 50 years after Ishikawa’s poems, we find a depiction of a terrorist, or “political youth” who dreams of attaining a “peak orgasm” in communion with the “Pure Emperor.” Moreover, for this youth, “terrorism” means an action undertaken by the self at the very moment of coitus between action and words. It is proper that the terrorist should be transformed from a historical anonym to a subject of language through action (prior to carrying out terror he or she cannot appear as a subject of speech). In the linked text of “A Political Youth Dies,” however, the young man’s action is obliterated in the flood of images coming from television, and he is stripped of language. In this sense, the youth’s situation can be seen as homologous with the terrorism that is bare action stripped of speech, pervasive in our twenty-first century present, when the critical consciousness Takuboku described as “being deprived of words” manifests itself in a most acute form. A volume containing the translation of “A Political Youth Dies” into German, together with the original Japanese text, has now appeared. Thanks to this publication, we can at last read the original Japanese text. It is now time for us, who have been “deprived of [this] text” for so long, to turn our attention to it.
KEYWORDS Terrorism; nationalism; Japan; Tenno; emperor system; freedom of expression; youth; Ōe Kenzaburō; translation
Notes on contributor
Hideto Tsuboi is a professor of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto. He has written on the issue of body politics, sense representation and the other in modern Japanese literature. His publication include Koe no Shukusai: Nihon Kindaishi to Sensō (Fest of Voices: Modern Japanese Poetry and War), University of Nagoya Press, 1997, Kankaku no Kindai: Koe, Shintai, Hyōshō (Modernity of the Sensibilities: Voice, Body and Representation), University of Nagoya Press, 2006, and Sei ga kataru: 20 Seiki Nihon Bungaku no Sei to Shintai (Sexuality Speaks: Sex/Gender and Body in the Literature in Twentieth-Century Japan), University of Nagoya Press, 2012.
Notes on translator
Alexander Murphy is a PhD candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His research interests center on transnational literature, performance, and sound media in twentieth-century Japan, with a particular focus on the aesthetics and politics of the voice during the interwar period.