Sunday, May 24, 2009

At this point, I have an odd story to tell...

At this point I have an odd story to tell. I hope that my readers will listen patiently without laughing at me. When I was in middle school, we learned about Antony and Cleopatra in a history class. As you probably know, Antony engaged the forces of Augustus in a naval battle on the nile. Cleopatra followed Antony into battle, but when she saw that things looked bad for her side, she immediately turned her ship and fled; whereupon Antony, realizing that the heartless queen was deserting him, withdrew from the battle at a critical moment and chased after her.
"Boys," the history teacher said to us, "this man Antony pursued a woman and lost his life. He is the greatest fool in history, truly the laughingstock of the ages. Alas! that a valiant hero should meet his end in this way..."
The teacher's manner was so odd that we burst out laughing in his face. Naturally, I laughed too.
But here is the point. I couldn't understand why Antony had fallen in love with such a heartless woman. And it wasn't only Antony; before him, the great Julius Ceasar had disgraced himself by getting entangled with Cleopatra. There are many other instances. When you examine the great family quarrels of the Tokugawa period, or the rise and fall of states, you always find in the background the wiles of a terrifying enchantress. Now, are these wiles so ingeniously, so slyly contrived that anyone would be taken in by them? I think not. However shrewd Cleopatra may have been, it's unlikely that she was more resourceful than Ceasar or Antony. If a man is alert, he doesn't have to be a hero to discern when a woman is sincere and telling the truth. A man who lets himself be deceived, even though he knows he's destroying himself, is just too fainthearted. If this was really the case with Antony, then there's nothing so wonderful about heros..."

by Junichiro Tanizaki, Naomi (1925)



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