Tag Archives: book

La pivoine tranchée par le sabre d’un maître

3 Mar
Otsū porta aux représentants de l’école Yoshioka la lettre de Sekishūsai qui s’excusait de ne pouvoir les recevoir. Il offrait également une fleur, qu’Otsū tendit en même temps que la lettre. Denshishirō s’offusqua, et dégoûté, rendit la fleur à Otsū qui en fit cadeau à la servante de l’auberge où séjournait également Musashi. Lorsque celle-ci plaça la fleur dans la chambre de Musashi, il remarqua la tige.

L’œil de Musashi se posa par hasard sur l’extrémité coupée de la tige de la pivoine. Il inclina la tête, surpris, mais sans comprendre ce qui avait attiré son attention.
[…]

– Sais-tu qui a coupé cette fleur ?
– Non. On me l’a donnée.
– Qui ça ?
– Une personne du château.
– L’un des samouraïs ?
– Non, c’était une jeune femme.
– Hum… Alors, tu crois que la fleur vient du château ?
– Oui, elle me l’a dit.

[…]

Les vingt centimètres du morceau de tige fascinaient Musashi beaucoup plus que la fleur de l’alcôve. Il était sûr que la première entaille n’avait été faite ni avec des ciseaux ni avec un couteau. Les tiges de pivoine étant souples et tendres, elle ne pouvait avoir été faite qu’avec un sabre, et seul un coup résolu pouvait avoir tranché aussi net. Quiconque avait fait cela n’était pas un être ordinaire. Lui-même avait eu beau tenter de reproduire l’entaille avec son propre sabre, en comparant les deux extrémités il se rendait compte aussitôt que la sienne était inférieure, et de loin.

[…]

Otsū rendit compte de sa mission à Sekishūsai.

– Le fils Yoshioka a-t-il pris en main la pivoine pour la regarder ? demanda-t-il.
– Oui. Quand il a lu la lettre.
– Et alors ?
– Il s’est contenté de me la rendre.
– Il n’a pas regardé la tige ?
– Pas que je sache.
– Il ne l’a pas examinée ? Il n’en a rien dit ?
– Non.
– J’ai bien fait de refuser de le rencontrer. Il ne le mérite pas. La maison de Yoshioka aurait mieux fait de finir avec Kempō

[…]

Musashi fit porter par Jotarō une lettre aux gens de Yagyū, ainsi que la tige.

« Curieuse lettre », se disait Kizaemon. Il considéra de nouveau la tige de pivoine, examinant avec attention les deux extrémités, mais sans pouvoir discerner si une extrémité différait de l’autre.

[…]

– Si ce que dit la lettre est vrai, déclara Kizaemon, et s’il a vraiment pu discerner que cette tige avait été coupée par un expert, alors il doit savoir quelque chose que nous ne savons pas. Le vieux maître l’a coupée lui-même, et apparemment cela saute aux yeux de quelqu’un dont les yeux voient véritablement.

Kizaemon demanda l’avis de trois autres au dōjō; aucun ne sut distinguer une extrémité de l’autre. C’était décidé, ils souhaitaient rencontrer ce « Shimmen Musashi », signataire de la lettre à l’écriture ayant du caractère, qui pourrait tout à fait être le Miyamoto Musashi qui avait aidé les prêtres du Hōzōin à tuer toute cette racaille, dans la plaine de Hannya.

Musashi, en quête de son humanité

28 Feb
Après la bataille de la plaine de Hannya, Musashi et son apprenti, l’enfant Jōtarō, arrivent dans la vallée de Yagyū.

Le décor lui-même combattait la laideur. Les montagnes de la chaîne Kasagi n’étaient pas d’une beauté moins saisissante à la tombée du jour qu’au lever du soleil ; l’eau était pure et claire — idéale, disait-on, pour faire le thé. Les fleurs de prunier de Tsukigase étaient proches, et les rossignols chantaient de la saison de la fonte des neiges à celle des orages ; leurs sonorités de cristal étaient aussi limpides que les eaux montagnardes.

[…]

– C’est stupéfiant, disait Musashi dont les yeux erraient sur les récoltes champêtres et les paysans qui s’adonnaient à leurs travaux. Stupéfiant, répéta-t-il plusieurs fois.

[… Après quelques explications de Musashi, Jōtarō reprend.]

– En tout cas, vous n’êtes pas venu ici pour admirer le paysage. N’allez-vous pas combattre les samouraïs de la maison de Yagyū ?

– Dans l’art de la guerre, combattre n’est pas tout. Les hommes qui le croient, qui se contentent de nourriture à manger et d’un endroit pour dormir, ne sont que des vagabonds. Un étudiant sérieux se soucie beaucoup plus de former son âme et de discipliner son esprit que d’acquérir des talents martiaux. Il doit apprendre toutes sortes de choses : la géographie, l’irrigation, les sentiments de la population, ses us et coutume, ses rapports avec le seigneur du pays. Il veut savoir ce qui se passe à l’intérieur du château, et non point seulement ce qui se passe à l’extérieur. Il veut, essentiellement, aller partout où il pleut, et apprendre tout ce qu’il peut.

Je lis La pierre et le sabre, d’Eiji Yoshikawa, un récit initiatique de la vie d’un personnage historique réel, dans le Japon du XVIIe siècle. Celui de Musashi, l’inventeur de la voie des deux sabres. Je me régale. Je l’avais lu adolescente, et je le redécouvre, je le savoure.

L’extrait plus haut illustre tellement bien Miyamoto Musashi, le samouraï en quête de raffinement, de perfection, et de son humanité. Au gré de ses voyages, il observe, se réjouit, il découvre, il tire des enseignements. Et lorsqu’il se bat, c’est à l’instinct, avec une violence implacable et une précision inouïe.

Sur la plaine de Hannya dix jours auparavant, Musashi avait tué une douzaine de rōnins en moins de temps qu’il n’a fallu à un observateur du combat de respirer vingt fois. J’ai compté, ça me prend une minute et vingt-deux secondes pour respirer vingt fois. Balaise.

Et là, au pied du mont Kasagi, il est fasciné que les arbres des forêts sont nombreux et vieux, que les champs sont verts et que les paysans ne regardent pas d’un œil envieux les voyageurs richement vêtus.

Book: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams)

9 Nov

I tapped into Maxf’s excellent and extended collection of books and was intrigued by the title of a Douglas Adams’ novel, ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’.

I read it pretty quickly and it enchanted me. Just the kind of clever and humorous reading I was after.

Here are a few spoiler-free bits I particularly liked, in the order they appear in the book:

So after a hectic week of believing that war was peace, that good was bad, that the moon was made of blue cheese, and that God needed a lot of money sent to a certain box number, the Monk started to believe that thirty-five percent of all tables were hermaphrodites, and then broke down.

“Well, he’s one of these people who can only think when he’s walking. When he has ideas, he has to talk them out to whoever will listen. […]”

Pink valleys, hermaphrodite tables, these were all natural stages through which one had to pass on the path to true enlightenment.

[…] Richard had run into Dirk from time to time and had usually been greeted with that kind of guarded half smile that wants to know it you thick it owes you money before it blossoms into one that hopes you will lend it some.

“The man just liked to talk,” he would later tell the police. “Man, I could have walked away to the toilet for ten minutes and he would’ve told it all to the till. If I’d been fifteen minutes the till would have walked away too.[…]”

That’s the problem with crunch-heads — they have one great idea that actually works and then they expect you to carry on funding them for years while they sit and calculate the topographies of their navels.

There was something odd about the horse, but he couldn’t say what. Well, there was one thing that was clearly very odd about it indeed, which was that it was standing in a college bathroom. Maybe that was all.

What with that and the amount he talked, the traffic through his mouth was almost incessant. His ears, on the other hand, remained almost totally unused in normal conversation.

[…] the act of measurement collapses the probability waveform. Up until that point all the possible courses of action open to, say, an electron, coexist as probability waveform. Nothing is decided. Until it’s measured.

The tall figure appeared to be not at all happy with what it saw, to be rather cross about it, in fact. To be more than cross. It appeared to be a tall dark figure who could very easily yank the heads off half a dozen chickens and still be cross at the end of it.

Dirk turned away and sagged sideways off his chair, much as the sitter for The Thinker probably did when Rodin went off to be excused.

“[…] Dirk Gently is the name under which I now trade. There are certain events in the past, I’m afraid, from which I would wish to dissociate myself.” “Absolutely, I know how you feel. Most of the fourteenth century, for instance, was pretty grim,” agreed Reg earnestly.

If you had seen the look on the poor child’s face. So miserable. She thought the world would be a marvellous place, and all those appalling old dons were pouring their withering scorn on her just because it wasn’t marvellous for them anymore.

“[…] may I ask you something that may be terribly personal? I will understand perfectly if you don’t want to answer, but I will just keep pestering you until you do. Just my methods, you see.”

“[…] I commend you on your scepticism, but even the sceptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.”

He stood transfixed. If anyone had been looking at his face at that moment, it would have been abundantly clear to them that the single most astonishing event of this man’s entire existence was currently happening to him.

Book: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)

7 Aug
I’ve just read Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book of 1884 which is set somewhere along the Mississippi River in the mid 1830s and tells the story of escape and freedom of Huckleberry, a white teenager and Jim a black grown-up runaway slave.I have thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. It took me a while to get used to the English old-fashioned vocabulary and grammar, as well as the language used by the slave Jim.

It was a surprise when I reached the end. Having read the five adventures, I would have gladly read some more.

Here are a few quotes and excerpts from the book that I found striking, amusing, or interesting.

About superstition, after Huck inadvertently killed a spider:

I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep the witches away. But I hadn’t no confidence. You do that when you’ve lost a horseshoe that you’ve found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn’t ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you’d killed a spider.

About itching, as Huck had to remain immobile:

If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t sleepy–if you are anywheres where it won’t do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.

About Stockholm Syndrome, discussion among Tom Sawyer’s self-proclaimed gang, who plot to carry out adventurous crimes:

Kill the women? No — nobody ever saw anything in the books like that. You fetch them to the cave, and you’re always as polite as pie to them; and by and by they fall in love with you, and never want to go home any more.

Huck tells the truth about Mathematics, the truth, only the truth:

I had been to school most all the time and could spell and read just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don’t reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever. I don’t take no stock in mathematics, anyway.

Long but exquisite passage. Conversation between Huck and Jim about the language of the French:

“Why, Huck, doan’ de French people talk de same way we does?”
“No, Jim; you couldn’t understand a word they said–not a single word.”
“Well, now I be ding-busted! How do dat come?”
“I don’t know; but it’s so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S’pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy–what would you think?”
“I wouldn’t think nuff’n; I’d take en bust him over de head–dat is, if he weren’t white. I wouldn’t ‘low no nigger to call me dat.”
“Shucks, it ain’t calling you anything. It’s only saying, do you know how to talk French?”
“Well, den why couldn’t he say it?”
“Why, he is a-saying it. That’s a Frenchman’s way of saying it.”
“Well, it’s a blame ridiculous way, en I doan’ want to hear no mo’ ’bout it. Dey ain’ no sense in it.”
“Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?”
“No, a cat don’t.”
“Well, does a cow?”
“No, a cow don’t, nuther.”
“Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a cat?”
“No, dye don’t.”
“It’s natural and right for ’em to talk different from each other, ain’t it?”
“‘Course.”
“And ain’t it natural and right for a cat and a cow to talk different from us?”
“Why, mos’ sholy it is.”
“Well, then, why ain’t it natural and for a Frenchman to talk different from us? You answer me that.”
“Is a cat a man, Huck?”
“No.”
“Well, den, dye ain’t no sense in a cat talkin’ like a man. Is a cow a man?–er is a cow a cat?”
“No, she ain’t got no business to talk either one er the yuther of ’em. Is a Frenchman a man?”
“Yes.”
“Well, den! Dad blame it, why doan’ he talk like a man? You answer me dat!”
I see it warn’t no use wasting words–you can’t learn a nigger to argue. So I quit.

Considerations from Huck and Jim when they’re star gazing:

We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it, because I’ve seen a frog lay most as many, so of course if could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they’d got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.

When the King and the Duke rehearse properly the Balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet:

[…] after a while he said he done it pretty well; “only,” he says, “you mustn’t bellow out Romeo! that way, like a bull–you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so–R-o-o-meo! that is the idea; for Juliet’s a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she doesn’t bray like a jackass.”

About the ignominy of people thinking Black people were sub-humans. Huck explains to Aunt Sally what delayed his steamboat:

“It warn’t the grounding–that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head.”
“Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
“No’m. Killed a nigger.”
“Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. […]

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