Correspondence

Issue 1/1996 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

A short story from Resa med lätt bagage (‘Travelling light’, Schildts, 1984)

Dear Jansson san

I am a Japanese girl.
I am thirteen years and two months old.
I will be fourteen on the eighth of March.
I have a mother and two little sisters.
I have read everything that you have written.
When I have read it I read it again.
Then I think about snow and being allowed to be by myself.
Tokyo is a very big city.
I am learning English and I am a very diligent student.
I love you.
I dream of one day being as old as you and as wise.
I have a lot of dreams.
There is a Japanese poem called haiku.
I will send you a haiku.
It is about cherry-blossoms.
Do you live in a big forest?
Forgive me for writing to you.
I wish you health and long life.

Tamiko Atsumi

Dear Jansson san

Today is my new birthday and it is a very important day.
Your present is very important to me.
Everyone likes your present and the picture of the little island where you live.
It is above my bed.
How many lonely islands are there in Finland?
Can anyone live there?
I want to live on a little island.
I love lonely islands and I love flowers and snow.
But I do not know how to describe them.
I am a very diligent student.
I read your books in English.
In Japanese your books are not the same.
Why is there a difference?
I believe you are happy.
Take care and look after your health.
Wishing you a long life

Tamiko Atsumi

Dear Jansson san

It has been a long time, it has been five months and nine days since you wrote to me.
Did you get all my letters?
Did you get my presents?
I miss you.
I am sure you understand that I am a very diligent student.
Now I will tell you my dream.
My dream is to travel to other countries and speak the languages of new countries
and to learn to understand.
I want to be able to talk to you.
I want you to talk to me.
You must tell me how to describe how you cannot see any other houses and
how you don’t meet anyone in the street.
I want to understand how to write about snow.
I want to sit at your feet and learn.
I am saving money to travel.
Now I am sending you a new haiku.
It tells the story of a very old woman who sees the dark mountains shimmering
in the distance.
When she was young she did not see them.
Now she no longer has the strength to go to them.
It is a beautiful haiku.
I beg you to be careful.

Tamiko

Dear Jansson san

You had to go on a very long journey,
now you have been on the journey for more than six months.
Surely you must have returned home.
Where did you travel, dear Jansson san,
and what did you learn on your journey?
Perhaps you took your kimono with you.
It has the same colours as autumn, and autumn is the time for making journeys.
But you have spoken so much not having enough time.
Time passes slowly when I think about you.
I want to be as old as you and to think only great, wise thoughts.
I keep your letters in a very beautiful box in a secret place.
I read them over again as the sun sets.

Tamiko

Dear Jansson san

Once when you wrote to me it was summer in Finland and you were living
on your lonely island.
You have told me that the post comes to your island very seldom.
Then you receive many letters from me at once?
You say it is marvellous when boats go by without stopping.
But now winter is coming to Finland.
You have written a book about the winter, you have described my dream.
I want to write a story so that everyone will understand and recognise in it
their own dream.
How old do you have to be to write a story?
But without you I can’t write it.
Every day is a day of waiting.
You say you are very tired.
You work and there are too many people.
But I want to be the person who comforts you and protects your solitude.
Here is a sad haiku that describes what it is like when you have to wait too long
for your beloved.
You can see what happened!
But the translation is not very good.
Hasn’t my English improved?

Yours ever, Tamiko

Dear Jansson san, thank you!

Quite right, you don’t have to be old enough, you just start writing a story because you have to, about what you know and feel or what you long for, your dreams, what you don’t know. Dear, dear Jansson san. You shouldn’t worry about other people and what they think and understand, because when you’re telling a story you should think only about the story and about yourself. Then you are alone in the right way. Just now I know everything about what it is like to love someone who is far away and I must hurry to write about it before they come any closer. I am sending another haiku, it describes a little stream that, in the springtime, becomes so happy that everyone listens and feels full of enthusiasm. I don’t have time to translate it. Listen to me, Jansson san, and write and tell me when I can come. I have saved money and I think I can get a scholarship for the journey. Which is the best and most beautiful month for us to meet?

Tamiko

Dear Jansson san

Thank you for your wise letter.
I understand that in Finland the forest is large and the sea is large but that your house is very small.
It is a beautiful idea that the writer should be met only in the writer’s works.
I am learning all the time.
I wish you good health and long life.

Your Tamiko Atsumi

Dear Jansson san

It has been snowing all day.
Now I know how to write about snow.
Today my mother died.
When one is the oldest member of the family in Japan, one cannot go on journeys,
and does not want to.
I hope you will understand.
I thank you.
This poem was written by Lang Shih-yuan, who was once a great Chinese poet.
‘The glowing snow joins in the sky with the glowing clouds.
The north wind takes with it the voices of the swallows, the wild geese.
Your poor friend has no gift to give you at the moment of parting;
only the dark mountains will go with you into the distance.’

Tamiko

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