Good evening ladies and gentlemen, bona nit, senyores i senyors, buenas noches señoras y señores, bonsoir mesdames et messieurs, minasan, konbanwa.
While my interest towards Japanese culture goes back a long while and is sincere, I had never thought seriously that I would try speaking, understanding or writing their language. However, now I feel like trying it, and that is thanks to Yves Maniette and his work "Les kanji dans la tête", a hard and consciencious book that brings to the reach of French speaking people the Japanese graphic system. A book that he had the courage of not only writing, but also publishing and distributing: a complete challenge!
I am Montserrat Calvo, and due to my professional background I feel a very strong inclination towards good words, good books and good challenges, and this explains why I am here tonight. If, moreover, the book has been written by a kind and friendly person like Yves, the joy is a double one.
What is a double joy? A joy with two people? A stereophonic pleasure? Two joys for the price of one?
Looking for "pleasure" in the dictionary of Spanish usage by Maria Moliner, I found: "from Latin "placere": delice. A sensation produced in the feelings or the aesthetic sensibility by something very pleasant, as can be a very good dish, a sea bath or a piece of music."
Looking in "Les kanji dans la tête", I believe I found the following in the "pleasure" ideogram: "The state of mind of a group of butchers, cutting with optimism large pieces of fresh beef."
From my surprise and my ignorance, I then thought "what would an "intense pleasure" be then in that book? And I found, corresponding to the kanji "intense": "Bamboo... team of horses. That intensity refers to the deepness of a friendship or to the gravity of a disease. In this ideogram, we find a team of horses that "have got the bamboo..." (then Yves adds between parenthesis: "please forgive me!" because in French slang, "to have got the bamboo" means... "to have a wonderful erection!")
Well, following with this ideogram, Yves says, "the horses are then perfectly ready to show their "deepest friendship" to the troop of mares approaching!"
Strange similarities and strange differences. Complex seduction of the concepts... And this is where, as far as I can see, the book undergoes a kind of magic modification, once you get into it: a complex seduction, a complex joy, a complex pleasure.
A few days ago, we were talking with Yves about the challenge implied by the creating process, in this case of a book, and he told me the following about his work: "Japanese mechanisms are sufficiently complex to entertain me for years."
With this commentary that I caught on the fly, I understood two things: the first one is that Yves Maniette enjoyed learning and he had a ludic and passionate relationship with his work, and I am convinced that this is enough in order for the future reader to enjoy it as well. As Alan Watts said: "a work well done must be done with a spirit of playing.(1)" The second one is that though the concept of "complication" may surprise many people, we can't forget that our brains need complication in order to evolve. That we, human beings, are here on Earth in order to meet difficulties and construct in a creative manner, and that without difficulties we would still be in the stone age.
In this way, "Les kanji dans la tête" follows gently the path of a sane complexity that is the basis of any good learning.
Yves Maniette offers us with this book a good technique for learning Japanese ideograms. This technique is a good one because it stimulates our mental faculties and actually our capacity for analyzing and perceiving. And it is also a good one because, as it goes in the same way as the nature of human brain, in its working process as well as in its memorizing mechanisms, it makes the understanding of what he teaches easier for us, gets us closer to the kanji and makes them more enjoyable for us, while we go more inside the Japanese culture.
In conclusion what I want to say is that Yves Maniette went to the depths of knowledge in order to extract and offer us, from the most difficult and most complicated, the simplest and most essential.
1. If you happen to know exactly Alan Watts
words in english, then
send me the exact text. thank you. YM.