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November 20, 1938 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1938-11-20

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A Heroic Figure Given
Superficial Treatment

..w.. _._.._.- .-.,

1" 40 0
rx Libris

Japanese Terror Campaign
Described By Correspondent

Stoie. Houghton, Mifflin, Newl
York. $3.00
Irving 1tone, the author of 'Lust
For Life', a biography of the artist'
VincEat Van Gogh, has again at-
tempted to re-create the life of
another realistic artist, Jack London.
That Stone has done so with fair
success reveals that he posesses an
inward kinship toward artists of the
school of Van Gogh and London.
Jack London was a man's man. He
personified early Calif rnia in spirit
and character. Life was strife 'and
strife was his touchstone of growth.
London thoroughly enjoyed the,
manic-depressiveness of his creative'
activity, of being able to soar to the
heights in vicarious ecstasy and
plurngve to the ddpths of despair al-
most in the same spasm of the swell
of waves against his boat's. heart,
when he could taste the salty ocean
on his lips, sing his soul out and be
alone with the wide sky and the liv-
ing air.
London's Irish compassion for the
suffering of others, his liberality and
love ,f a fight, was well nurtured
in the poverty, hunger and depriva-
tion of his harrowing experiences asj
a ca;ual laborer, and he turned to
stringsnt and radical socialism. To
London socialism was a system of
historical and economic logic, as ir-
refutai:le as the multiplication table.
And what is still more necessary to
the adoption of socialism, he-had the
perservance to follow a given line of

reasoning and the courage to accept the eminence of which it is capable,I BY JOSEPH GIES
its conclusions no matter how they Jack London will be known with
might violate his nreconceived no- meaning as the father of proletarian
Several of my friends have recent-
tion- lieratre Ameica.'IheNewly urged me to write a column for
When Jack London began writing, Masses said in 1929: "A real prole-
the popularly accepted writers, such tarian writer must not only write the book page. This friend. I mean
. these friends, pointed out that every-
as Muir, Joel Chandler Harris, Craw- about the working classes, he must one is entitled to write a newspaper
ford. Everett Dean Howells, wrote be read by the working class. A real column of some sort some time dur-
without vitality and realism, they proletarian writer must not only use ing his life, and that after all the
seemed afraid of real life in its pro- his proletarian life as material, his Daily sports editor writes a column,
founder truths and realities. They writing must burn with the spirit of and recently a column has even ap-
prettified, evaded, and threw a spu- revolt. Jack London was a real pro- peared sporadically on the women's
rious veil of saccharine romance over letarian writer-the first and so far page. So why not the book editor?
their characters, avoiding anything the only proletarian writer of genius Well, I said, why not indeed? So
that cut deep. Probably the domin- in America." here it is. 10 point: Mr. Nevins and
ant reason for this attitude was fear; London as a writer is important, Mr. Hicks.
fear of shocking or displeasing the but an object for a biography he is If the above will suffice for an in-
editors, fear of alienating the mid-
west public, fear of antagonizing the great. The whole review of his life troduction, I should like to start off
sthe vested intereststheliterally crackles with heroic toils, with some literary material of in-
newspapersthe vetintests, te immense problems, ambitious dreams, terest, which should not seem out of'
pulpit and educational system; fear the fever and sweat of a hundred place. In reading Allan Nevins' Gate-
of vigorous, the brutally true and wild insurgencies. Though Mr. Stone way to History, reviewed elsewhere
abov talwfarnoth unleasan presents his story freely in a charm- on this page, I came across a refer-
Hence it was not shocking to find ingly clear and disarming manner, ence to "a biographer of John Reed"
a literary revolution in process. To Sailor On Horseback is too simple and who, according to Nevins, had will-
combat the reign of impoverished episodic. It is not a mature biog- fully omitted from his book certain
minds impoverishing literature with raphy, nor is it mature literature. Al- letters written just before Reed's!
their vacuous over-projected Victori- though Mr. Stone attempts to creep death which revealed the writer's
anism, London helped launch in the inside the mind and spirit of Jack disillusionment with . the Russian
United States the movement which London he doesn't do so comprehen- Revolution. As Granville Hicks is
was being carried on in Norway by sively. He merely relates an ambi- the only biographer of Reed, as far
Ibsen; in Germany by Sudermann tious array of incidents that fall short as I know, I wrote him concerning
and Hauptm'ann; in Russia by Tol- of . really interpreting Jack London the passage.
stoy, and in France by Maupassant living. In fact the man who under- In reply, Mr. Hicks enclosed a copy J
and Zola. London's realism made him takes the task of writing the defini- of crepnd.enc ed himself
the forerunner of the "after the gen- tive biography of Jack London should nd res on ence between himself
teel tradition" in American literature either give himself a fictitious name first letter from Mr. Hicks, dated Oct.
which culminated with Sinclair Lewis and write an inside interpretation of 29, quoted the passage in full and de-
receiving the Nobel Prize. London or should write in the first nid the hm pa g h fullnd e-
T..,___Y _ i ledtheimpuatin i thefolowig

NA, By H. J. Timperley. Modern
Age, New York. 75 cents.
This little book is frankly a cata-
logue of atrocities. The market for
atrocity stories is admittedly not
what it once was, and Mr. Timper-
ley's book, for the most part cannot
compete in dramatic appeal with
many of its predecessors. The inci-
dents generally run to similar pat-
terns, and the repetition of them
soon becomes deadening. True inci-
dents are seldom as colorful as fic-
tional ones, and these incidents are
true. Mr. Timperley, who was present
in North China during the Japanese
conquest as correspondent for the
Manchester Guardian, presents docu-
mentary evidence for his account in
the form of eye-witness reports col-
and I should be grateful if you would
prevail upon Mr. De Vote to pro-
duce the evidence for his assertion."
In his letter to ne, Mr. Hicks said
that 'the matter is still far from
settled, the question still remaining
whether Bernard De Voto simply lied
or was in some way misled. I have
every intention of getting to the bot-
tom of the matter, and you will have
a final statement, either in the press
or direct from me."i

lected by the International Commit-
tee for the Nanking Safety Zone a:id
other impartial sources, most of
which were filed with the Japanese
civil and military authorities.
It is difficult to appreciate the ex-
tent of the terror in China from mere
newspaper reports. Mr. Timperley>
found that many of his own dis-
patches were suppressed by the mili-
tary censor, and for that reason de-
cided to publish some of them in book
form. "Although I was fully satis-
fied that the information upon which
my messages were based was irrefut-!
able," he says in his foreword, "as
the Japanese authorities had alleged
some of them to be 'grossly exagger-
ated,' I began to search for docu-
mentary proof and had no difficulty
in,,discovering a wealth of corrobora-
tive evidence from unimpeachable
sources . . . It was only at my earnest
request that the custodians of these
documents (of the International
Committee in Nanking) permitted me
to make use of the material in this
What follow:,is a description of de-
struction too thorough to be any-I
thing but systematic, brutality too
unrestrained to be merely wanton, a;
campaign of terror which one ir-,
resistibly feels must be not only the
fault but the will of the Japanese
military. Terrorism has been used
before in history for military pur-
poses, but it is doubtful if it has ever
previously assumed anything like the
proportions of the present instance.
One quotation, from a statement
written by an American for the.China

Weekly Review, should be sufficient
to reveal as unemotionally as pos-
sible the extent of destruction. It
describes the area between Shang-
hai and Nanking, a distance of some
200 miles:
"This area, six months ago,
was the most densely-populated
portion of the earth's surface,
and the most prosperous section
of China.
"Today the traveller will see
only cities bombed and pillaged;
Itowns and villages reduced to
shambles; farms desolated, and
only an old man or woman here
and there digging in the once
'good earth.' The livestock has
been either killed or stolen, and
every sort of destruction that a
brutal army, equipped with all
the modern instruments of war,
can inflict has been done here."
A number of Reuters dispatches re-
porting the aerial bombardments of
Shanghai, Sungkiang, Hankow, Can-
ton and other cities are included.
When one recalls the structure of
Chinese cities, with -hundreds of
thousands or millions of people
crowded together in ramshackle slum
dwellings on streets a few feet wide,
the effect of an indiscriminate air
raid can be roughly measured. Air
raids of such cities, even when aimed
at military objectives, such as rail-
way stations, government buildings,
etc., must be in effect indiscriminate,
and many of the Japanese raids have
apparently been directed at no such
English Boot and Shoe Maker
Our new repair department, the
best in the city. Prices are right.
438 South State and Factory on
South Forest Avenue.


There is one more thing to point
out-the peculiar irony of a glaring

In literary histories and antholo-
gies London is given the cold shoulder.
However it is safe to predict that
when proletarian literature achieves

.,. u'~- ---""-,--actual error appearing in a book like
person in autobiographical style. Then words:
only will we receive the heartfelt ex- that of Mr. Nevins, a large part of

perience of seeing Jack London as he
really is.

Mr. Nevins Revels In Glories
Of History And Its Writers,

Allan Nevins. D. C. Heath, Boston.

H ill Auditorium
TUES., Nov. 22

To be followed, by:

"History," says Allan Nevins in his
latest book, "has passed through .
a mere age of transition into an age
of utter revolution, and has not quite
oriented itself." 'Starting from this
thesis Mr. Nevins writes an intelligible
and highly readable discussion of the
methods and aims of historians in
which his keynote seems to be one of
tolerance for all the various schools
of history writing, a tolerance some-
what akin to that of the literary critic
for all the various phases and periods
through which literature has passed.
"The history of the future," he
says, "will necessarily be eclectic in
the best sense. Because the full truth
is the only real truth, history as a
whole will make. all possible use of
science-of statistics, sociology, econ-
omics, psychology, geography - to
present a complete and exact picture
of the past." The favorite old saw of
whether history is a science or an art,
Mr. Nevins takes in his stride by
asserting that it is both science and
art, in all three of its branches, name-,
'y, research, interpretation and nar-
The more complex question of ob-
jectivity in history takes a little more
explaining. "Of course it is important
ghat the historian have what the
French call an intelligence defiee, a
mind free from conscious prejudices,"'
he says. And there really is little more
.o be said with any degree of safety.
Some historians (Mr. Nevins mentions
Hilaire Belloc) can be recognized as
,ossessors of preconceived convictions
which render impartial writing out of
he question. But at the same time no
one can deny, and the present author
.oes not attempt to, that nearly all
-istorians approach their work with
;ome kind of background of educa-
tion, temperament or training which
.'enders their interpretation to some
extent individual. Nor can anyone
leny that there are certain schools
of history among which it is impos-
sible as yet to finally rank according
to merit, although some evaluation,
specially of the older historians, can
jndoubtedly be made along lines
which Mr. Nevins suggests. Fdr ex-
imple, the merely political history of
,he eighteenth and nineteenth cen-
tury writers is unquestionably inade-
xuate, and is recognized as so.
The discussion of historical mater-
ials is of interest primarily to the
serious student. That of historical
frauds, which the author classifies
under the titles of "The Cheating

Document" and "The Garbled Docu-
ment," to distinguish between out-
right forgeries and mere blunders or
colorings resulting from prejudice or
error, is perhaps the most readable
portion of the book. The former type
of document is probably best exempli-
fied by the famous "Donation of
Constantine," a forgery of early medi-
eval times by which the supremacy
of the papacy in the Christian Church
was made possible. An innocuous but
widely celebrated example from our
own history is the story of George
Washington avd the cherry tree,
which Parson Weems perpetuated,
ironically enough, in the interest of
truth telling. A good example of the
garbled document is the varying ac-
counts qf scriptural events in the
3ynoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. In another highly instruc- '
tive chapter, "Pilate on Evidence,"
Mr. Nevins discusses the problem of
gettiug the historical ,truth from
documents which, for one or another
reason, usually conscious prejudice,
are suspect.
In defending the theory of multiple
causation, Mr. Nevins seems to go a!
bit too far, asserting in effect that
there is no such thing as menistic,
or single causation. While the latter
has undoubtedly been overworked inf
recent years, it does not seem alto-
gether judicious to rule it out of con-
sideration in all historical problems. I

S "This statement is completely1
false. I did not ignore any ma-
terial of any kind. No one in-
formed me of the existence of let-
ters in which Reed expressed dis-
illusionment, and, if there are
any such letters, I have never
seen them or heard of them ..
"You will realize, of course,
that a charge such- as you have
made can do incalculable dam-
age. Indeed,,I know of no way
in which adequate amends can
be made. I do expect you to
make the most active efforts to
reach readers of your book with
a correction of this slanderous
"Very truly yours,
"Granville Hicks."
Mr. Nevins' reply, dated Oct. 31,
I said that the statement had been
made on the strength of informa-
tion given by Bernard De Voto of the
Saturday Review of Literature. The
letters in question were said to be in
the possession of a close friend of Mr.
De Voto's. Mr. Nevins added that
he was inserting a foot-note in the
second printing of A Gateway To.!
History saying that the passage did
not refer to Mr. Hick's book. He also!
offered to "ask. De Voto to make a
statement on the matter, for insertion
in various literary journals."
Mr. Hicks, in reply, Nov. 1, ex-.
pressed gratitude at learning the
source of the story about the letters,
but said that "since . . . mine is the
only biography of Reed, I am afraid
that a footnote such as you propose
to insert in the second printing would
not help matters much. The only re-
sult, indeed, would be to bewilder
your readers.
"It seems to me that it is as much
to your interests as to mine that the
matter should be thoroughly aired,


which is devoted to the subject .of
historical accuracy.






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