Some strange rule

I’ve got some bold feelings right now which, rather than put into some sort of quaint “emo” rant as-per-usual, I’ll replace with this snippet from a nice (depressing) story, The Idiot, by Sakaguchi Ango, the WWII-era, anti-establishment, Japanese author.

(In the following, replace “200 yen” with “money” or even, “money during trying circumstances” and it’ll make a little more sense)

His way of living was unbearably trivial and he himself lacked the power to resolve this triviality. War — this vast destructive force in which everyone was being judged with fantastic impartiality, in which all Japan was becoming a rubble-covered wasteland and the people were collapsing like clay dolls — what a heart-rending, what a gigantic love it represented on the part of nothingness! Izawa felt a desire to sleep soundly in the arms of the god of destruction. This resignation to the force of nothingness had the effect of making him rather more active than before, and when the air-raid alarm sounded he would briskly put on his leggings. The only thing that made life worth living each day was to toy with the uneasiness of life. When the all clear sounded, he would be thoroughly dispirited and once more would be overcome by the despair of having lost all emotion.

This feeble-minded woman did not know how to boil rice or to make bean-paste soup. She had trouble in expressing the simplest thought and the most she could do was to stand in line to get the rations. Like a thin sheet of glass, she reacted to the slightest suggestion of joy or anger; between the furrows of her fear and her abstractedness she simply received the will of others and passed it on. Even the evil spirit of the two hundred yen could not haunt such a soul. This woman, thought Izawa, was a forlorn puppet made for him. In his mind’s eye he pictured an endless journey in which he would roam over the dark moorland with this woman in his arms and the wind blowing about him.

Yet he felt that there was something rather fantastic and ludicrous about the whole idea. This was probably because his external triviality had by now begin to erode his very heart in such a way that the frank feeling of love that was gushing up within him seemed entirely false. But why should it be false? Was there some intrinsic rule which said that the prostitutes in their apartments and the society ladies in their houses were more human than this feeble-minded woman? yes, absurdly enough, it looked as if there really was such a rule.

What am I afraid of? It all comes from the evil spirit of those two hundred yen. Yes, now when I am on the point of freeing myself from the evil spirit by means of this woman, I find that I am still bound by its curse. The only thing I am really afraid of is worldly appearances. And what I mean by “world” is merely the collection of women who live here in the apartments — the prostitutes and the kept women and the pregnant volunteer-workers and the housewives who cackle away in their nasal voices like so many geese. I know that there is no other world. Yet, indisputable as this fact is, I am completely unable to believe it. For I live in fear of some strange rule.

translated by George Saitou

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