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  • The Relations Between Things and Three Types of People A lecture sponsored by the Manshū Nichinichi Shimbun, September 12, 1909, in Dalian
  • Natsume Sōseki
    Translated by Angela Yiu (bio)

Sōseki traveled to Manchuria and Korea during September and October of 1909. He delivered three lectures while in Dalian, and the one translated here was thought to be lost until it was discovered in a microfilm of the Manshū Nichinichi Shimbun (Manshū Daily News) in 2008. The lecture was originally printed in the newspaper in five installments, from September 15 to 19, 1909 and was most likely based on a reporter's transcript.

Coming Up with an Idea

This trip to Manshū1 was meant to be a relaxing affair for sightseeing and leisure, but I have found myself extremely busy with experiencing and observing various things during my travels, and there doesn't seem to be enough time to see it all. The director of the newspaper Manshū Nichinichi Shimbun, Mr. Itō,2 asked me to give a talk, and finding it hard to turn down a friend's request, I agreed, but I really don't have a solid idea of what to talk about. To begin with, it's not easy to come up with an idea; it may not be so hard to rehash someone else's idea or to talk about things written about in books, but coming up with something you want to say and something that you want people to listen to is not so simple. Even if I have a flash of inspiration, it doesn't necessarily mean that I can make others see what I have in mind. To make an idea clear to others is what one calls "to elaborate"3 in English. This is like stretching words out infinitely, the way you blow through a bamboo tube to shape candy figures. It's exactly like school lectures or foreign books—an endless reiteration of what you already know very well. You go on and on with an absurd explanation of minor details that should well be put to rest, but unless you do so people will not understand, so that is the only way to make people see your point. If you just provide an outline, your idea will not be clear. You hear people say, "I can't give a talk just for your sake, at the expense of self-humiliation." You see, sometimes people accept a request to give a lecture but do not bother to take time to [End Page 126] explain things clearly, so no one understands the lecture at all. Other times, people don't really have an idea of what to talk about, and the audience ends up saying, "What a bag of nonsense!" Both scenarios result in self-humiliation. That is to say, since you can devalue yourself by what you say, you have to admit that talks and lectures are nothing but trouble. But at the same time, it is trouble that is well worth taking.

A Lecture for Face Recognition

Back in Japan proper I hardly ever go out, and not only do I avoid giving talks and lectures, I have neither ideas for talks nor ways to elaborate. So what about this evening? It's not as though the air in Dalian has brightened up my mind, allowing me to explain everything clearly to you. Partly because I accepted Mr. Itō's request lightly with an "Okay, I'll see what I can do," and partly because things inevitably took their own course, my initial thought of telling you a story has ended up as a lecture. Well, even then, this is nothing more than a lecture for the purpose of remembering each other's faces if we happen to run into each other in Japan.

What Brought Me to Manshū

Manshū is full of surprises. I had never thought of it as such a fascinating place when I was in Japan proper. For a summer retreat in Japan, one can go to a hot spring or a beach, and there are plenty of activities, including climbing Mount Fuji, that would be inexpensive to undertake. I myself can...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2329-9770
Print ISSN
0913-4700
Pages
pp. 126-135
Launched on MUSE
2019-07-02
Open Access
No
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