Akutagava Ryunoske :”Art and about other things.”

Akutagava Ryunoske :”Art and about other things.”


First and foremost the artist must seek perfection of his works. Otherwise, his serving of the art will become meaningless. Let’s take for example the concussion, which the ideas of humanism provoke: if only you seek it, you can achieve it by merely listening to an ordinary sermon. As we all serve the art, first of all our works must strike by their artistic nature. We don’t have any other way but to achieve their perfection.

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“Art for art” -take another step and you’ll fall into transforming art into entertainment.

“Art for the sake of life”–take another step and we’ll fall into the arms of worshiping the use of arts.

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Perfection is not merely the creation of a work, reading which you cannot find any mistake, but it is a complete and multilateral expression of ideals in the art. The artist, who is not capable of followingit, deserves disgrace. Thus, the great artist is the one, whose sphere of perfection is the most comprehensive one. For example, Goethe.

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Of course man cannot surpass the abilities given him from nature. But if relying on this you don’t do anything, you’ll never know where the limit is. That’s why it is necessary for everyone, who strives to become Goethe, to be heroic. But there is no need to publicly announce everybody that you have succeeded in becoming Goethe.

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Every time we try to step on the path of artistic perfection, our heroism runs into obstacles. Is that the desire for a rest? No, it’s not that. It is something more mysterious. The higher the man climbs the mountain, the more familiar becomes the foothill covered with clouds, that’s it. A man, who doesn’t have such a feeling is an alien to me.

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A larva on a tree branch is exposed to a lethal threat because of its enemies: temperature, weather, birds. In order to survive the artist also, like a larva, must be saved from the dangers crouching him. Interruption is especially dangerous. No, pause is impossible in the art. The absence of the movement forward, means movement back. But that’s enough for the artist to move back, and the process of creating becomes mechanical. That means that he creates twin-works. That’s enough for the process of creating to become mechanical, and the artist appears at the edge of a collapse. By writing «The Dragon» I brought myself to the edge of a collapse.

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The regularity that the more correct the views of the person towards art are, the better works he creates is not mandatory. Does this thought suppress only me? I beg not to find myself alone here.

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The content is the trunk and the branches are the form. This view is widely spread. But it is just a plausible lie. The content of the work is the content, which is definitely merged with the form. To think that the content exists from the beginning and the form is created later on can only the blind, who doesn’t understand the essence of the art. Perhaps you remember Oswald’s words from «The Ghosts», which says «I am thirsty for the sun». What is the content of those words? In the notifications for «The Ghosts» professor Tsuboichi has translated them «it is dark».

Akutagava (2)

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Perhaps from the standpoint of logic «I am thirsty for the sun» and «It is dark» are the same things, but from the standpoint of the content of those words they are far from each other like the sky and the earth. The content of these solemn words «I am thirsty for the sun» can be displayed merely by the words «I am thirsty for the sun». The greatness of Ibsen is that he was able to perceive the integrity, which is merged in the content and the form. There is nothing amazing that in the foreword of the performance «The Child of Don Juan» Echegaray speaks admiringly about that drama. If we mix the content of those words and the symbolic meaningenclosed in it, we may be led to the wrong assessment of the content. Masterly created content is not still a form. But the form is enclosed right in the content. And vice versa. For the person, who doesn’t catch those subtle relations, art remains a closed book.

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The art starts with self-expression and ends in self-expression. Thepainter, who doesn’t create paintings, the poet, who doesn’t write poems are words, which don’t have any other meaning except the figurative one. They are much more a nonsense than «a non-white chalk».

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But the followers of the wrong idea of the priority of the form are a real evil. In fact, it is such an evil as following the wrong idea of priority of the content. The latter suggest meterorites instead of stars. The first, looking at the firefly, think that it is a star. My addictions and education force me to be reasonable and the applauds of those who worship the wrong idea of priority of the form, don’t impress me.

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When we succeed in penetrating into the work of a great artist, often influenced by his enormous power, we forget about the existance of other writers. Like people, who look at the sun for a long time and it is enough for them to take their look from the sun and everything around seems to be dark. When I read «War and Peace» for the first time, I started to set at defiance the rest of Russian writers. It was a mistake. We must know that except the sun, there exist the moon and the stars. Admired by «The Last Judgement» of Michelangelo Goethe afforded himself to suspect whether didn’t Rafael deserve a disregard in Vatican.

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In order to create extraordinary works the artist wouldnd’t stop even before selling his soul to the devil. Of course I would also do the same. But there are people, who would do it more easily than me.

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Mefistofel, who had arrived in Japan, announced that «there isn’t such a work, which would not possible to defame. The only thing that a clever critic must do, is to choose the right moment, when his reproach will be perceived. And making use of that moment to curse the writer. Suchlike curses have a double effect. They are against both the people and the writer».

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The understandingand not understanding of the art is beyond the judgements about it. In order to know whether the water is warm or cold, there is just one way, to drink it. The same is with the perception of the art. To think that you can become a critic by reading books about aesthetism, is the same that it is enough to read guidebooks and there won’t remain any other mysterious places in Japan. I think that it is possible to cheat people.

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The creative process of every genius is always conscious. What does it mean? In the picture “Pine tree on the stone”, the branches of the tree are leaned to one side. Why does it make such an amazing impression?I don’t know whether the painter himself knew about it, but the fact that the impression is made by suchlike order of branches, he had perfectly realized. If he hadn’t realized it, he wouldn’t be a genius at all. Instead, he would be an ordinary robot.

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Unconscious creative process is just an illusion. That’s why Rodin spoke about inspiration so defiantly.

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Hearing the critical remark that Delacroix paints the flowers carelessly, Sezanwas strictly against it. Perhaps he just wanted to speak about Delacroix. But just the image of Sezan is clearly displayed in the protest. In order to perceive the unbroken laws, which force the artist to have an artistic concussion; it is necessary to work hard: this is the striking image of Sezan.

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The ability of making use of that unbroken law is a unique kind of trickery. Those who ignore suchlike focuses or don’t understand what art is or use that word only with one meaning, I don’t see any other explanation. But in that case to announce boastingly that it is not like anything else, is the same as to consider all the vegetarians of the world greedy and to consider vegetarianism another name of greediness. Why do we need this ignorance? Willingly or unwillingly, all the artists have to turn to focuses. Let’s return to the painting “Pine tree on the stone”. In order to have a certain impression, willingly or unwillingly the artist had to apply to some trick, to lean the leaves of the pine tree to one side. “You write with your heart. You write with your life”. Those sparkling, as if leaves of gold words, are good only for correcting the pupils for the sake of their teaching.

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Simplicity is commendable. But what is called simplicity in the art, is a simplicity, which is of unbelievable complexity. Simplicity is that they put under the pressure things that had already undergone that pressure. People, who are not able to realize how many creative efforts they should make in order to achieve such simplicity, can endlessly create and create something and consider their childish prattle eloquentand exceeding Demosthenos. Real complexity is much nearer the true simplicity than that dull simplicity.

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Trickery itself is not dangerous, but the mastery with which it is done. Mastery can hide insufficient seriousness. It is a shame to confess but in my weak works, there are also such ones, which are formed masterly. Maybe my enemies also will gladly accept this fact, however…

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By my nature I am a sibarit (sibarit-coddled, lazy, wasteful) and if I am addicted to elegance too much, there is a threat that I will become a captive of elegance. And as my nature won’t change it is necessary to clearly show me, as well as other people, in what I trust and not to hide in a shell trying not to show neither me, nor others what I represent myself. That was the reason that I decided to talk a little. If I don’t waste all my efforts on it, then it’s nearly the time, when I won’t manage to reach the shore.


Why did Faust meet the devil?

Faust served the God. If it is so, for him apple was “the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil”. Every time seeing an apple he remembered the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve.

But once after a snowing Faust looked at the apple and remembered a painting drawn with fresh, juicy colors, which he had seen in some big monastery. Since that time, the ancient perception of apple as “the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil” for him was united with the modern concept of “still life”.

Being subject to some pious feeling, Faust has never tasted an apple in his life. However, one night, when the storm was raging outside, he was suddenly hungry, then he roasted an apple and ate it. From that moment on, in his consciousness apple was merged also with the idea of food. Now seeing an apple he remembered Moses and the Ten Commandments, thought about the harmony of colors and at the same time felt growling in his stomach.

And finally, one cold morning, looking at the apple, Faust suddenly thought that for a merchant apple is nothing else but an ordinary merchandise. By selling some quantity, the merchant gets silver coins. Since that time, the notion of apple for Faust was merged with the notion of money.

One cloudy morning, when Faust was sitting alone in his study, a scrawny dog appeared from nowhere. Shivering with all his body, the dog was instantly transformed into a knight and he bowed to Faust respectfully.

Then why did Faust meet the devil? It should be understood from what was said above. But meeting the devil still doesn’t mean the last, the fifth act of Faust’s tragedy.

One evening, in a strong frost, when Faust and the devil, who had the appearance of a knight, were walking in a crowded street and were talking about the apple, suddenly they saw a thin, crying child. He was pulling his poor mother’s hand and begging “to buy him an apple”.

The devil stopped and pointing to the child, said:

– Look at this apple. Isn’t it a tool for torture?

This is where the curtain goes up and starts the fifth act of Faust’s tragedy.

Why did Solomon see the Queen of Saba only once?

Solomon saw the Queen of Saba only once. And the reason was not that his kingdom was too far. The ship of Tarshish brought gold and silver, ivory, monkeys and peacocks. But the camels with the messengers of Solomon never crossed the hills and deserts surrounding Jerusalem, beyond which the kingdom of Saba stretched.

Solomon was sitting in his palace alone. His heart was grieved in sadness. Even the numerous concubines, among whom there were girls from Moravia, Ammonia, Idomena and Sidon, were unable to comfort him. He was thinking about the Queen of Saba, whom he had seen only once.

The Queen of Saba was not a beauty and she was also older than Solomon. But that woman was endowed with exceptional wisdom. When talking with her Solomon felt how his heart drilled in admiration. He hadn’t felt such a delight even when talking to astrologers and fortune-tellers about their secrets. Solomon was ready to talk with such a wonderful woman like the Queen of Saba twice, thrice and what is it all about – all his life.

But at the same time the Queen of Saba threatened Solomon. It seemed that beside her Solomon lost all his wisdom. However, it was difficult for him to decide, whose wisdom made him feel more proud of, his own or the wisdom of the Queen of Saba. Solomon had numerous wives and concubines, from Moravia, Ammonia, Idomena and Sidon, but all of them were his spiritual slaves. Even stroking them he felt disregard towards them. Sometimes the Queen of Saba succeeded in making Solomon his slave.

Solomon was afraid of becoming her slave, but from the other side it was a blissful feeling. Such a contrast caused Solomon inexpressible suffering. Sitting on his ivory throne, which was decorated with lions cast from solid gold, he sighed from time to time and in the result poems were created:

You are like an apple tree.

This tree is among the trees of the forest.

This is what you are like among young men.

I sit in your shade with great pleasure.

Your apples taste good. They are sweet.

He has made me strong again with his fruit.

I feel much better with his apples!

I am weak with love.

Once in sunset Solomon came out to the balcony of his palace and looked away to the West. Certainly, he couldn’t see the Kingdom of Saba from there but he was overwhelmed with a feeling like tranquility, which was like a sorrow at the same time.

Suddenly under the rays of the setting sun there appeared a ghost with the appearance of an unknown beast, which reminded of a two-headed winged lion. One of the heads was of the Queen of Saba and the other was Solomon’s head. The mouths of both were open and somehow there were tears coming down from their eyes. For some time the ghost soared in the air and then there was heard the howling of the wind and it disappeared in the sky taking with him the silver chain of clouds stretching in the entire sky.

Solomon was still standing in the balcony. The meaning of the vision perhaps would seem mysterious for the others, but it was quite understandable for him.

When night fell on Jerusalem, Solomon, who was still young, started to drink wine with his wives, concubines and servants.All his dishes for eating and drinking were made of solid gold. But as usual, Solomon was sad and silent.

He was overflown by a powerful feeling, which was unknown to him until now and made it difficult to breathe.

Don’t reprimand saffron, that it is red,
Don’t reprimand laurel for being sweet-scented:
But how sad it is,
That saffron is too red,
And the scent of laurel is so strong.

So sung Solomon, touching the harp and tears came down his cheeks and mildly merged with the words of the song, which were full of unusual passion. Concubines and servants looked at each other confused, but none of them dared to ask Solomon what that song meant. Singing up to the end, he leaned his crowned head to his breast and for some time sat there, his eyes closed. And then suddenly Solomon raised his bright face and like in the past times started to talk with his wives, concubines and servants.

Once in three years the ship of Tarshish and the ship of Hiram brought gold and silver, monkeys and peacocks. But the camels, the camels with Solomon’s messengers never crossed the hills and deserts surrounding Jerusalem, beyond which the Kingdom of Saba stretched.

Why did Robinson tame the monkey?

Because he wanted to see his caricature before himself. I know it for sure. When Robinson holding his gun, with his trousers torn on knees looked at the monkey, which with its grey appearance gazed the sky, a smile appeared on its face.

THE FROG.          

I was sitting near an old pond, in which there were many frogs. Around the pond was covered in reeds and cattails. Beyond them was a line of white willow, the branches of which were often rustled by the wind. And beyond that was the blue summer sky, in which glass-like, laced clouds were shining. And the reflection of all that in the water of the pond was far more beautiful than in reality.

The frogs living in the pond were ribbiting all day long without any rest. However, they were actually having a fierce debate. It would be wrong to insist that frogs could speak only in the times of Aesop.

One of the frogs sitting on a leaf of a reed and behaving like a university professor announced:

“For what purpose does water exist? It is here for us – frogs to swim. For what purpose do the insects exist? They exist for us – frogs to eat.”

“Right, right”, the frogs in the pond shouted. The whole surface of the pond, where the sky, the grass and the trees were reflected, was nearly full of frogs. And that’s the reason that their voices of approval sounded impressive enough.

Right at that time, a snake, who was sleeping at the base of a willow, was awakened by the annoying ribbiting. It raised its head, looked towards the pond, and flitted its tongue sleepily.

“For what purpose does the earth exist? It is there for the trees and the grass to grow on. And they are there in order to give shade to us – frogs. Therefore it can be argued that the entire world exists for us – frogs”.

“Right, right”.

Hearing the shouts of approval for the second time the snake snapped its body like a rope. And then, crawling its way through the reeds without any noise, its black eyes glistening, it carefully examined what was going on in the pond.

The frog resting on the reed leaf, just as before, lectured his enormous mouth widely open:

“For what purpose does the sky exist? It exists here for the sun to hang from it. Therefore it can be argued that the entire world exists for us – frogs”. Thus, the water, the grass, the trees, the insects, the earth, the sky and the sun, all exist for us – frogs. Thus, we cannot deny the fact that the entire universe exists for us – frogs. As I explain this fact to you, at the same time I would like to be thankful to the god for he has created this universe for us –frogs”.

Looking at the sky and rolling its eyes, the frog again widely opened its enormous mouth and announced:

“Praised be Your name, oh Lord…”

The frog hadn’t managed to finish its words, when the snake’s head shot forth at him, and the eloquent frog in an instant appeared in the snake’s mouth.

“Ribbit, ribbit, oh that’s awful!”
“Ribbit, ribbit, oh that’s awful!”

“Oh that’s awful, ribbit, ribbit!”

While the shocked inhabitants of the pond were crying out in surprise, the snake quietly swallowed the frog and hid in the reeds. The commotion that occurred after had likely not been seen on the earth; anyway, it hadn’t been seen since the times this pond had existed.

I myself heard how a young frog asked crying:

“The water, the grass, the trees, the insects, the earth, the sky and the sun, all exist for us – frogs. So what about snakes? Are the snakes here for us, too?”

“Exactly. Snakes also exist for us – frogs, otherwise we would increase immeasurably. And if we grow that much, it would be cramped in the pond and in our world. That’s why the snakes crawl; they come to eat us – frogs. We should proceed from the point that the eaten frog is a sacrifice offered for the happiness of the majority. You are totally right. Snakes also exist for us – frogs. Everything in the world, everything without any exception exists for us – frogs. “Praised be Your name, oh Lord…”

This was the response, I heard from an old frog.

Translation done by Vardan FERESHETYAN

the material is taken from http://goo.gl/pPsmlk

translated from Armenian into English by M.Vardanyan