The First English Translation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Favorite Childhood Book

But in another way, nothing is more striking than the story of a common teaching, the true subject of this book. The premise, or pivot, that justifies the philosophy is a series of exchanges between a young boy attractively named Cooper, and his intellectual uncle, who lives in the same Tokyo suburb that Cooper and his mother moved to after his father’s death for two years. earlier. Copper goes to school downtown, and one of the non-accidental pleasures in the book is his evocation of Tokyo in the 1930s, as in this view from the rooftop of a department store: “The carts looked like little toys, and their roofs were stained with rain. The cars too, and the road surface The asphalt and even the trees lining the road and all that was there was dripping wet and shining with bright daylight shining from who knows where.”

We learned that copper earned its nickname not from a mineral or color but from Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, whose bravery in insisting on a heliocentric model of the solar system became a boy’s standard. (It is not clear whether the word “copper” has as much punctuation in Japanese as it does in English.) This lesson is a lesson given by his uncle, whose didactic discourses on many subjects occupy at least a third of the book, and serves as a sort of confrontational matter. Ordinary though accurately described the adventures of Copper in his school. As he reports to his uncle about these very normal events – friendships forged, teachers defied, bullies avoided – his uncle delves deeper into the bag of seemingly endless erudition, finding suitable examples for his nephew to take into account as his adolescence develops. These include the difference between the interests of consumers and producers; Molecular and atomic theory. the question of whether the heroism of Napoleon Bonaparte justified his sacrifice of French soldiers in Russia; And the controversy over the fact that the apple of Isaac Newton fell.

It all sounds…weird, not to say it’s probably boring. and here He is Weird, but boring, mainly because Yoshino gave the instructions a poignant emotional root. On his deathbed, we learn that Cooper’s father asked his wife’s younger brother to make sure his son became a “great man,” with a definition of greatness that was both humble and awe-inspiring: He wanted his son to be “a great example of a running man.” Thus his uncle’s philosophy, far from being random, is designed to teach the boy the values ​​of life. When copper thinks of molecular theory, it learns to see itself as an interchangeable part of a larger stream of life, to undress its selfishness, but lessons in global economics that come soon after also teach that every molecule depends on every other. we are nothing; We are everything.

One is put in mind, at times, for Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote The Little Prince, and also, in a time of desperate war, using children’s literature to teach readers the necessity of pluralism and a separate love for others. The Western reader suspects that much of How Do You Live? It is similarly linked to the politics and despair of the left responding to the tragic rise of military imperialism in Japan. In the years immediately preceding World War II. (Yoshino was a long-time professor at Meiji University, imprisoned before the war as a leftist. The economic corridors here bear the imprint of his Marxism, usefully hybrid with Buddhist temperance and a love of Western science.)

Two things are clear in Yoshino’s tale: how complete the “westernization” of Japan was by 1937 and how complete it was. The main comic book portion includes an impromptu “broadcast” of baseball by Cooper. But the intense respect and courtesy that mark Cooper’s exchanges with his uncle feels very far from the world of Babe Ruth and Ring Lardner. Everyone in 1930s Japan is expected to know, somewhat shockingly, about Napoleon, but what they do know is his dignity in defeat.

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