Composed a decade after Japan’s defeat in World War II, the following five poems appeared in the mid-1950s when their author, Yoshimoto Taka’aki resigned from his workplace at Toyo Ink after the labor union struggle he led against the company was defeated. For Yoshimoto, who would emerge in the early 1960s as an intellectual and literary inspiration to the New Left students who opposed both the conservative capitalist regime of the Liberal Democrats and the anti-democratic Stalinist vanguardism of the Japanese Communist Party, these poems were written on the occasion of his second greatest defeat (the first was the war and the third was the anti-Ampo -- Japan-U.S. Mutual Security Pact -- movement of 1960).
‘Everybody Sang’ is Sassoon’s most famous poem, and according to some critics, supposedly written in celebration of Armistice Day, 1919, just before he found out that his friend Wilfred Owen had died in the last week of fighting. Sassoon had been treated for shell shock and war neurosis in one of the UK’s most experimental war trauma facilities, the psychiatric unit at Craiglockhart, and had sustained physical wounds during his time at the Western Front.
In The Story of Zahra, Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh presents betrayal as the very essence of narrative and narrativity. It becomes a postmodernist syndrome with various symptoms and multiple manifestations, predicated, as it is, on all manner of deception in the negotiation of female identification and self-defining modes. It starts from the enunciation of the title itself: the third person referent implies a certain detachment; a voice promising to unveil Zahra’s secrets and hence breach her interiority. This detached voice is the one behind the scenes, Zahra’s double and the marker of her schizoid self.
We broke up over six kids—that’s how I always told the story. But of course that was no story. I don’t mean that it wasn’t fiction (although it wasn’t ), just that it wasn’t narrative. It was only the prelude to a punch line. Six kids? the person to whom I had said this would ask. What kids?
Kids we didn’t have.
Then the laugh. And we’d move on.