Tag Archives: interesting people

Jack Kerouac

[T]he only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn[.]

Jack Kerouac, On the Road, New York, 1957, ch. 1

Donald Keene

Not far from the British Museum was Gordon Square, where Arthur Waley live. Waley had been my inspiration for years—the great translator who had rendered The Tale of Genji into Japanese but also Chinese works. […]

Various people had told me that it was difficult to keep a conversation going with Waley. If he was bored, he did not take pains to conceal it. A friend related that on one occasion, when Waley had a particularly tedious visitor, he took two books from his shelf and invited the visitor to go with him to the park in Gordon Square and, seated on separate benches, read a book. Even though it did not take Waley long to decide whether or not it was worth conversing with another person, he was not the kind of snob who has interested only in important people. On the contrary, he had such a wide variety of acquaintances that he might be described as a collector of unusual people. If I happened to inform an Australian clavichordist or a group of Javanese dancers or a Swiss ski teacher that I taught Japanese literature, I might be asked if I knew Arthur Waley, a friend of theirs.

Waley was a genius. The word genius is sometimes used in Japan for any foreigner who can read Japanese, but Waley knew not only Japanese and Chinese but also Sanskrit, Mongol, and the principal European languages. Moreover, he knew these languages not as a linguist interested mainly in words and grammar but as a man with an unbounded interest in the literature, history, and religion of every part of the world. He loved poetry written in the language he knew, and if he did not know a language that was reputed to have good poetry, he did not begrudge the time needed to learn it. Late in life he learned Portuguese in order to read the poetry of a young friend.

Donald Keene, Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan, New York, 2008, pp. 71-72