THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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2 posts categorized "South East Asia"

22 July 2017

Esperanto as an Asian language

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Linguists are undecided about Esperanto: is it closer to the Asian or the European languages? Its vocabulary is certainly more European, but its structure is similar to that of some Asian languages. In any case, Esperanto started to be known in Asia at almost the same time that it appeared in Europe.

The first mention of Esperanto in Japan was in the late 1880s in relation to a brief flurry of interest in another artificial language, Volap√ľk. It really arrived in 1906 in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War. A body of learners, advocates, and users emerged which was notably diverse right from the outset. A sample of some of the early participants serves to illustrate this: Futabatei Shimei, the Russophile and novelist, encountered Esperanto in Vladivostok. His textbook, translated from Russian, was one of the most popular of the early ways to learn. Osugi Sakae, one of the most significant Japanese anarchists, was in prison in 1906 when the first Esperanto meetings were being held, but while there he began to study the language and on release was a very active participant, writing the first Japanese to Esperanto translation, setting up an Esperanto night school, and introducing the language to a number of expatriate Chinese students who went on to form the foundation of the Esperanto (and Anarchist) movement in China.

EsperantoAZIOGarciaDSC_5226

 Cover of: Victor Garcia. Three Japanese Anarchists: Kotoku, Osugi and Yamaga (London. 2000). YC.2000.a.4780

In 1907 a Chinese-language magazine was published in Paris with the title Hinshi-gi (New Century), in which anarchist Chinese students called for Esperanto to come into general use in China. The first Esperanto courses in China began in 1906 in Shanghai.

EsperantoAzioOrientaAzioDSC_5227 Five issues of Orienta Azio in the British Library's collection. Hand written, hand-bound, printed on Washi paper. (Tokyo, 1913-1914). YF.2016.a.7793

And then there was Ho Chi Minh, a young revolutionary who was travelling the world. In 1915 he was living in Crouch End, London, and he learned Esperanto at around this time. He would go on to make use of it in 1945 when the Vietnamese radio service informed the world of the state’s declaration of independence.

EsperantoAzioTagkajeroDSC_5228

Title page of the collection of poems of Ho Chi Min Tagkajero en prizono (Prison Diary) in Esperanto translation (Hanoi, 1966). YF.2016a.7793.

Esperanto was introduced into Korea by students who had learnt it in Japan. However, it would take too long to describe Esperanto’s fortunes in every country in Asia.

Just after the First World War, one of Esperanto’s early heroes was the Japanese Nitobe Inazo. When the League of Nations was established in 1920, Nitobe became one of the Under-Secretaries General of the League. He became a founding director of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (which later became UNESCO).

EsperantoAzioNitobeInazoDSC_5229Title page of:  Nitobe Inazo. From Bushido to the League of Nations. Edited by Teruhika Nagao (Sapporo, 2006) YD.2006.a.3871

In August 1921, Nitobe took part in the 13th World Congress of Esperanto in Prague as the official delegate of the League of Nations. His report to the General Assembly of the League was the first objective report on Esperanto by a high-ranking official representative of an intergovernmental organization. Although the proposal for the League to accept Esperanto as their working language was accepted by ten delegates, mainly from Asian countries, the French delegate used his power of veto to block the issue.

In honour of Nitobe, a regular feature of World Esperanto Congresses over the last twenty years has been the Nitobe Symposium, in which well-known linguists discuss global language problems.

EsperantoAzioNitobeSimpozioDSC_5230Cover page of: Al justa lingvopolitiko en Azio. Towards Equitable Language policy in Asia. (Tokyo, 2008). YF.2009.b.2191

Esperanto also prospered in China during the same period. Among its supporters was the famous writer Lu Xun. The Chinese Esperanto movement soon became linked to other progressive cultural movements, and the language was learned by numerous intellectuals and revolutionaries.

EsperantoAzioLuSinCover of: Lu Sin, Elektitaj noveloj. (Hong Kong, 1939). YF.2010.a.24509

Esperanto speakers accompanied Mao Zedong on the Long March, and after visiting an exhibition about Esperanto, Mao wrote, ‚ÄúIf Esperanto is used as a means for presenting ideas which are truly internationalist and truly revolutionary, then Esperanto can and should be studied.‚ÄĚ Mao‚Äôs comment opened the way for Esperanto in China.

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 Covers of: Prezidanto Mau Zedong. Pri popola milito (Pekino, 1968) YF.2014.a.16361 and Vortoj de Prezidanto Mau Zedong (Pekino, 1967) YP.2011.a.378

In the meantime Esperanto had found adepts in most other Asian countries. Some phenomena are difficult to explain. Iran is one of the Asian countries where the movement has done well from the early 20th century onwards throughout all political upheavals and revolutions. Both the Shah and the Ayatollahs approved its use, and the national movement celebrated its centenary in 2016. And what about Pakistan? The national Esperanto association formally joined the World Esperanto Association in 1978, and continues to hold conferences and publish textbooks in Urdu. For more detailed information about the movement in other Asian countries the best source is Gvidlibro pri Esperanto-movado en Azio (Guidbook to the Esperanto movement in Asia) by Chieko Doi (Yokohama, 1995; YF.2009.a.6158; Cover below).

EsperantoAzioGvidlibroDSC_5233

There is no country in Asia without its Esperanto speakers, from Mongolia to Myanmar, including Kazakhstan, Indonesia, the Philippines and others. An Asian congress of Esperanto takes place every three years. The 8th Asian Congress took place in the Chinese city of Quanzhou in November 2016 with participants from 20 countries. The 9th Congress will be in the Vietnamese city of Da-Nang in 2019. In addition, the Chinese and Japanese are the most prolific publishers of books in Esperanto. The Chinese Esperanto magazine El Popola ńąinio (From People‚Äôs China;  ZF.9.a.6337)  is produced by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing which has also published almost 200 books in Esperanto. China Radio International  broadcasts regularly in Esperanto and recently has also started producing films for distribution on the Internet.

EsperantoAzioInfanajlibrojDSC_5234Books for children published in China and South Korea, from Esperanto Collections of the British Library.

Considering the strength of the Esperanto movement in Asia, on the day when the 102nd World Esperanto Congress is opening in Seoul we can certainly claim that Esperanto is as much an Asian as a European language.

Renato Corsetti, Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics at La Sapienza University in Rome, former president of the World Esperanto Association.
Inumaru Fumio, Vice President of the Commission for the Asian Esperanto Movement of the World Esperanto Association.

27 June 2016

All the World’s a Stage: Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas

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On Friday 10 June, the British Library welcomed a host of expert speakers to discuss the global understanding of our ‚Äėnational‚Äô poet. And it turns out Shakespeare is the poet of many nations. It would be impossible to do justice to the richness of the presentations in a blog post, yet all of our panels shared the fundamental idea that Shakespeare‚Äôs writing is at the heart of every culture. Adaptations and translations are not so much secondary to the original but offer a radically different entry into, and a potentially much more direct access to, a Shakespeare play that will always signify something particular to different nations in different social and temporal contexts.

Prof. Jerzy Limon (photo below) opened proceedings with a view into the establishment of the GdaŇĄsk Shakespeare Theatre, designed by Renato Rizzi, at once a huge black modernist edifice in stark contrast to the red brick Northern European architecture (its 90 tonne retractable roof opens fully in 3 minutes), and a gothic castle-like structure, alluding to the city‚Äôs mediaeval Bazylika Mariacka.  We saw videos of the theatre‚Äôs opening ceremony and of varied productions, showing how the space can be adapted to both traditional Elizabethan stage design and experimental avant-garde interpretations.

ShakespeareSeminarLimon brightned up

Stuart Gillespie and Graham Holderness offered us insights into the sources and settings of Shakespeare‚Äôs plays. Dr Gillespie explained how French and Italian were the languages of culture and how European (mainly Italian) sources ‚Äď epics, essays (Montaigne‚Äôs predominantly), romances and novellas ‚Äď were in the atmosphere around Shakespeare‚Äôs time and were inevitably absorbed and adapted in his works. Professor Holderness spoke of the ‚Äėreciprocal relationship‚Äô between Shakespeare and Venice and how the playwright had already created much of the myth around the city before it was (re-)created in 19th and 20th century literature.

The British Library‚Äôs Julian Harrison gave us a glimpse of the ‚ÄėOur Shakespeare‚Äô exhibition currently at the Library of Birmingham, home to the second largest Shakespeare collection in the world. The collection was resurrected after a fire destroyed the old library building in 1879 and the collection was soon expanded thanks to donations from around the world. Julian highlighted the beautifully produced photo album of German Shakespeare scholars (1878), the photo album donated by Laurence Olivier, and a Russian edition of Romeo and Juliet presented by a Soviet delegation at the height of the Cold War. Julian also managed to show the importance of Warwickshire to the bard, just before the study day moved to more tropical climes.

Philip Crispin opened the afternoon‚Äôs proceedings with a rousing presentation on Une temp√™te (‚ÄėA Tempest‚Äô). In this ‚Äėadaptation for a black theatre‚Äô, Aim√© C√©saire, one of the founders of n√©gritude, recasts Ariel as a mulatto slave and Caliban as an articulate black slave in revolt, reflecting the racial politics of his native Martinique. Michael Walling, Artistic Director of intercultural, multimedia theatre company Border Crossings, presented an insider perspective of staging Shakespeare in India, and translating and staging Dev Virahsawmy‚Äôs Toufann, a Mauritian adaptation of The Tempest, in London. The linguistic choices made by both writer and translator in the case of Toufann were fascinating: the play is written in Mauritian creole, but the title is in Hindi ‚Äď Prospero is from the dominant Indian diaspora community in Mauritius, and seeks to impose this new word into the play. Philip and Michael showed how these two postcolonial adaptations of The Tempest epitomise translation as creative interpretation.

Shakespeare Seminar Postcolonial panel

Charles  Forsdick introducing Philip Crispin and Michael Walling (Photo by Ben  Schofield)

From considering just three performances, Paul Prescott encouraged us to look at hundreds in his whirlwind road trip presentation across the United States. The phenomenon of the Shakespeare festival was plain to see in the sheer spread and eclectic formats of these festivals. The bard‚Äôs work is not just made for the Globe Theatre but is at home anywhere and perhaps more at home in the small and distant communities of the American West. The day‚Äôs underlying theme again: Shakespeare is accessible universally. The idea was explored further by Mark Burnett, who showed how a constant industry of Shakespeare adaptation in film across Europe and South America sees in the plays stories that apply to a vast array of national settings, from gypsy versions of Hamlet (Aleksandar Rajkovic, Serbia, 2007) and King Lear (Romani Kris ‚Äď Cig√°nyt√∂rv√©ny, Bence Gy√∂ngy√∂ssy, Hungary, 1997), to a Brazilian Romeo and Juliet set in the favelas of Rio (Mar√©, Nosse Historia de Amor, Lucia Murat, Brazil, 1997).

Shakespeare SeminarGDR

The day concluded with a round table on the ‚Äėcultural politics of European Shakespeare‚Äô. Aleksandra Sakowska talked about the long history of interaction between Poland and Shakespeare, a presentation which touched on the first black actor to play Othello in Britain, Ira Aldridge. Nicole Fayard drew our attention to Shakespeare‚Äôs relevance in modern French society from the Vichy regime to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, showing how even in the latter situation Shakespeare managed to force his way into public consciousness. Keith Gregor described how Shakespeare productions in Spain still far outnumber those of the Spanish Golden Age playwrights, and how, after Franco‚Äôs reign, Shakespeare began to be appropriated by Spain‚Äôs autonomous communities in overtly political avant-garde productions. Emily Oliver presented a view of Shakespeare around the time of German reunification, particularly through the challenging production of Hamlet/Machine in 1990, directed by Heiner M√ľller (photo above by Ben Schofield). Hamlet could be seen building and jumping over a wall on stage in a not-so-subtle allegory of the political context. Erica Sheen chaired the discussion that followed which situated Shakespeare as the most significant figure of international cultural exchange and at the heart of every nation‚Äôs self-expression. Shakespeare gives voice to political counter-currents and his work is continually adapted to inhabit alternative, minority, and simply ‚Äėforeign‚Äô positions.

ShakespeareSeminarDiscussion

 Final panel of the seminar. Photo by Ben Schofield

‚ÄėAll the world is a stage‚Äô begins Jacques‚Äôs monologue in As You Like It, and this study day left no doubt that will always be true for Shakespeare‚Äôs work.

This study day, organised by the European and Americas Collections department of the British Library, was supported by the AHRC ‚ÄėTranslating Cultures‚Äô Theme, the Polish Cultural Institute and the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Collaborative Doctoral Student, British Library/University of Bristol