Sunday, April 29, 2018

Gorby's Japan

Of Japan, Gorbachev in his 695-page long memoirs only wrote, “I did not go to London [for the 1991 G7 summit meeting] to beg for credits; a meeting of top leaders is not the place where money is given out. I did not sell the Azerbaijan oilfields to the British or the Kuril Islands to the Japanese.

Yes, the territorial dispute over the Southern Kurils was mentioned. But according to his memoirs, it was George Bush who mentioned it for furthering cooperation between the USSR and Japan.

His Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, visited Japan in January 1986, and he met the Japanese Foreign Minister in September of the same year and again a year later, both times in New York. Shevardnadze came to Japan again in December 1988. Another meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the two countries took place in Paris in the following month, January 1989, followed by yet another in Paris in January and New York in September 1989. Foreign Minister Nakayama visited Moscow in January 1991, and Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh visited Tokyo in March 1991 before President Gorbachev himself came in April 1991 finally. And he and Prime Minister Kaifu met at the London G7 summit in July 1991. Gorbachev never let us know what was discussed during these meetings in his memoirs.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

No Sight of Japan in Gorvachev's Memoirs (to page 500)

After 500 pages (out of 695 pages in total), no specific subject related to Japan or Japanese politician is mentioned in “Memoirs” by Mikhail Gorbachev. So far, about Asia, Rajiv Gandhi and the Chinese leadership during his 1989 trip to Beijing, just days before the Tiananmen Square massacre, are the topics. This book is rather tough or tedious to read perhaps because this is an English translation from Russian and perhaps because his own writing. Not surprisingly, his mind seemed to be concentrated far more on how to advance perestroika in the USSR and improve its relations with the US and Western Europe. Shevardnadze’s speech of his resignation as Foreign Minister, which was really stunning, is mentioned rather in passing (page 390).


Monday, April 16, 2018

Le Xuan's Best Friend from Japan, Psychological Linguistics and Gorbachev's Memoirs

Le Xuan’s best friend from childhood was an outsider too, a Japanese girl. Their shared misery forged a permanent bond, and they remained in touch for the rest of their lives. (Finding the Dragon Lady, p. 31)

Like her Japanese friend from childhood, Madame Nhu’s new friends [Americans] were outsiders too, which made her feel comfortable around them. (p. 82)

Who is this best friend of hers from childhood? Shared misery??

I finished François Grosjean’s Bilingual: Life and Reality” several days ago, and the chapter about code-switching and borrowing” makes me wonder if the use of katakana characters in the Japanese language should be considered a case of code-mixing. Therefore, understanding Japanese seems to be a form of bilingualism. This idea is reinforced, of course, by the fact that the language cannot be whole without the help of Chinese characters. Is the use of Chinese characters also a form of code-mixing? Though I’m quite ignorant of how the Japanese language is defined or positioned in the field of linguistics, it seems to me that after all, it may not be a language so unique as many suppose, believe or claim. In addition, some words of Japanese and Vietnamese have similar pronunciations because both languages are influenced by Chinese.

After “Bilingual,” I started and already finished “Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism” by Grosjean and Ping Li. This book, somewhat related to those by Steven Pinker, which I read many years ago, delves more deeply into the mechanism of bilingualism and provides more information than “Bilingualism.” Though both books do not offer much data about Japanese bilinguals, I found that the chapters of “Written Language Processing” and “Language Acquisition” of “Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism” relevant to my own experience.
Now, I’m reading “Memoirs” by Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Dragon Lady (or Her Mother)

I finished Kuusinen’s “Before and After Stalin” two nights ago and am half way through “Finding the Dragon Lady” by Demery. Both stories (and “Stalin’s Spy”) are fascinating.

One afternoon in the autumn of 1942 I was doing my round of the barracks with a medical orderly when a group of prisoners came in: they had been working all day in pouring rain and were soaked to the skin. They threw their padded jackets on to the floor of the drying-room, and many also left their wet boots there. I opened the door and was met by a revolting smell from the damp, sweaty garments. Then I saw something move under the heap, and the orderly pulled out a man, evidently a Japanese, still wearing his sodden jacket. He tried to stand up, but failed, and was obviously very ill. We took him to the clinic en route for the hospital. He answered my questions in a faint voice, smiling in the Japanese manner. He told me his name and said he had been the chief delegate of the Japanese Communist Party to Moscow and a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern. Next day I heard that he had died in hospital. So, although he had not been shot like so many Comintern officials, he had met his end no less surely through years of hardship in prison and labour camps. (PP. 168-169, Before and After Stalin, Aino Kuusinen)


French reports tallied [Madame Chuong’s] lovers, including the most important – and most threatening – one. Sometime after his arrival in 1939, the Japanese diplomat Yokoyama Masayuki betrayed his French wife for Madame Chuong; in return, she was described as more than his mistress. Madame Chuong became the Japanese consul’s right arm” in Hanoi. To the French, it was an ominous sign that a woman as smart and ambitious as Madame Chuong would choose the Japanese over the French. She was doing what she could to help secure her family’s good position in quickly shifting political sands.

The allegations were transmitted to Paris on faded onionskin sheets and archived, preserving the tittle-tattle of diplomats for posterity. According to one rumor that gained traction many years later as café gossip, among Madame Chuong’s many lovers in Hanoi was a man by the name of Ngo Dinh Nhu. (p. 35, Finding the Dragon Lady, Monique Brinson Demery)

Madame Chuong: mother of Tran Thi Le Xuan (Madame Nhu, “the Dragon Lady”), wife of Ngo Dinh Nhu, chief political advisor of Ngo Dinh Diem, his older brother and President of the Republic of Vietnam


Shame on you, Lessie!!