Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Someone I know had this written about was quite amusing that he became the subject of some literary examination...

Almost a year ago, on another network called Shakespeare and Company, a strange person made his debut: Akira Yamashita. Akira-san claimed to be a Japanese Koto player, with an interest in writing poetry. He was received warmly by the network. A few weeks later, however, he put up this startling post:

Some of you may recall that several weeks ago, I fell a victim to Fugo fish poisoning. I was hospitalized in a Sapporo hospital and fed activated charcoal as part of the treatment. Time stood still.

It was a period of intense soul searching. I had visions. I spoke to God and several doctors and nurses. As a side effect of the poisoning, I lost the ability to converse in Japanese and now speak English with a pronounced Angolan accent. Not being able to speak Japanese in Japan despite being Japanese has certain disadvantages and I am now looking to emigrate. In any case, I discarded Koto playing and now play the Sitar, which affords a deep sense of meditative pleasure. I find I cannot tolerate Japanese food either and prefer the more charming Idli and Dosa from South India, despite having never visited India. And I never want to write a haiku again. Never. Ever.

The strange case of Akira Yamashita – a persona that continues to grow, change and became an independent narrative – is one way of dealing with the problem of personality in an impersonal space. With self-deprecation and humour, Akira-san constantly subverts and at the same time, draws attention to some aspects of our behaviour online. In this post, he has raised the issue of identity: What kind of a Japanese man wakes up to find he speaks English with an Angolan accent and wants to emigrate to south India? Which part of this narrative is real and what does that word mean anyway?

Another member of the same network, David Israel, had this to say when it became apparent that Akira-san was a fiction:

Is this, rather, a question of fictional persona-construction as lying close to the imagination-generating heart of his poetical creativity? Or if one is to essay the writing of haiku per se, does this fairly necessitate constructing a Japanese persona who may then do the writing? -- if one is to write from the vantage of a Black American, does this call for the formulation of a personality who can justify such a literary exertion?

Is [this person] radically different from any significant poet who, perforce, constructs a "self who can speak" in the very process of speaking?

Akira Yamashita is a story that magically transforms our ideas of ourselves in an online space. We are forced to question the stories we tell about ourselves, our identities as writers and our identities as speakers in the stories we tell. He is a mirror held up to us; if we are conscious of absurdity in his posturing, it is a timely reminder to us to examine our motivations and our stances online.


Innocent Warrior said...

Your blog is amazing, I came to know many things about hindustani music. I have added you to my blog list.

writerzblock said...

Sometimes, that which is mysterious is also endearing.

I love the old gentleman Akira's writing!! Its as mysterious as he is.

John said...

Akira at it again, eh?