A knowledgeable colleague told me that early August marks the 50th anniversary of the deaths of a number of famous people. Aug. 5 is the 50th anniversary of American actress Marilyn Monroe’s death. Folklorist Kunio Yanagita died Aug. 8 and German writer Hermann Hesse died Aug. 9, both in 1962.
The name Hesse brings back old memories. At one time, Hesse’s novels were considered necessary reading for adolescents. They include “Beneath the Wheel,” “Peter Camenzind” and “Gertrud.” Some people who read them as susceptible adolescents must remember them fondly as mementos of their youth. His books were also standard reading material for book reports.
At this time of the year, I remember the short story “Schon ist die Jugend” (Beautiful is the youth). A young man, who goes back to his hometown during summer vacation, spends the summer with his parents and younger siblings. He sees a past love but the romance does not bear fruit. The vacation ends and a heartbroken man departs from his hometown by train, looking up at fireworks adorning the night sky. The story stirs the poetic imagination of the reader.
The summer flows past like a stream. The man says: “When it comes to vacations, the first half is always longer.” The reason I remember underlining the sentence when I read it as a student was my habit of putting off my summer homework. Once we enter August, the summer vacation flies.
The monthly Bungeishunju once categorized methods of doing homework by type. Those who start early and finish their homework by the end of July enjoy the rest of summer vacation at their leisure. Some never get down to work until the last moment, when they have no choice but to do it at full throttle. Others work diligently as though accumulating savings. Then, there are the people who never turn in their homework.
That last approach is not good, but no matter how students get their homework done they should work hard and play hard and enjoy their summer vacation. As Hesse said, summer and youth pass quickly.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 1
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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