A great mystic poet and playwright whose plays are poems in drama, Paul Claudel is as much admired as a writer of great French prose, and is here represented with an essay from the first book which was published under his own name, The East I Know. (His career as a writer was begun anonymously while he was in the French diplomatic service.) This and other essays in the book, translated by Teresa Frances and William Rose Benét, grew out of his years in the consular service in Shanghai, Hankow, Peking and other points in the East. Some years later, from 1921 to 1925, he was French ambassador to Japan. His preoccupation, in nearly all of his writing from the time of his conversion at the age of eighteen, has been with expressing his Catholic point of view in literature. In this essay he adds a commentary on Buddha and Nirvana.
IN THE STREET called Nihon Bashi, near the merchants of books and lanterns, of embroideries and bronzes, miniature gardens are sold: and, as a studious idler amid this fantastic display, I mentally compare these little fragments of the world. The artists have subtly shown themselves masters of the exquisite laws by which the lines of a landscape are composed, like those of a physiognomy. Instead of drawing nature they reproduce it, constructing their counterfeits from the very elements of the original, which they borrow-- as a rule is illustrated by an example. These images are usually exact and perfect replicas. All sorts and kinds of pines, for instance, are offered me to choose from; and their position in the jar, with their height as a scale, proportionately shows the dimensions of their original territory. Here is a rice-field in Springtime; in the distance is a hill fringed with trees (they are made of moss). Here is the sea, with its archipelago and its capes! By the artifice of two stones, one black, one red, and rather worn and porous, they have represented