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Richard Reineccius <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 17 Aug 2000 03:59:18 +0200
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pan Morishita -

I'm a San Franciscan living and teaching in Lodz, in Poland.  At a Polish
salary, I need to add, so I can only wish I could attend your conference.
And I'm sorry that I've never been closer to Japan than San Francisco, but
I've always enjoyed the bit of Japan that is J-Town there.

Twain's years in S.F. (where he first used the name, if I recall
correctly) were before there was much if any Japanese immigration. But
there were ethnic Chinese in fairly large numbers already, brought as
indentured workers for the mines and the railroads, with the promise of
return passage. An interesting footnote is that Andrzej Poniatowski, the
heir to the Polish throne (that didn't exist, but he was heir to it
anyway), was in on this virtual slave trade, having married the daughter
of Crocker, the banker from Sacramento who schemed the whole bilking of
the U.S. Gov't to build and then control the cross-country railroad.
Poniatowski, with wife and in-laws new money, built his own railway, the
Sierra Rwy, and started a small gas and electric supply firm, Pacific Gas
and Electric. Poland never got him back.

In "Clemens of the Call" he doen't seem to have written about the broken
promises to the "slave" workers from China, but he did write this:

[In San Francisco] a large part of the most interesting local news in the
daily papers consists of gorgeous compliments to the "able and efficient"
Officers This and That for arresting Ah Foo, or Ching Wang, or Song Hi for
stealing a chicken; but when some white brute breaks an unoffending
Chinaman's head with a brick, the paper does not compliment any officer
for arresting the assaulter, for the simple reason that the officer does
not make the arrest; the shedding of Chinese blood only makes him laugh;
he considers it fun of the most entertaining description.  I have seen
dogs almost tear helpless Chinamen to pieces in broad daylight in San
Francisco, and I have seen hod-carriers who help to make Presidents stand
around and enjoy the sport.  I have seen troops of boys assault a Chinaman
with stones when he was walking quietly along about his business, and send
him bruised and bleeding home.  I have seen Chinamen abused and maltreated
in all the mean, cowardly ways possible to the invention of a degraded
nature, but I never saw a ponicemena interfere...
(from NY Tribune)

Don't know what he would have written about the internment camps for
Japanese Americans by the Euro Americans about 7 decades later, but one
can imagine his typewriter on fire.

So thanks for the invitation - Have lots of laughs and some tears, and
we'll try to do something similar in Poland. My gut feeling is that the
setting for the encounters between the devil and the priest in "The
Mysterious Stranger" was present day Poland-Galicia (Celtic country -
Krakow and east/and south), then (1590) a kind of borderland that
everybody claimed but nobody felt strongly enough about it to tell Austria
it wasn't theirs.  "Some even set it away back centuries upon centuries
and said that by the mental and spiritual clock it was still the Age of
Belief in Austria.  But they ment it as a compliment, not a slur... we
were all proud of it."  Poland still believes, and is proud of it, well
beyond reason, that IT is the last bastion of Belief... "far away from the
world, and asleep..." even while joining NATO and maybe the European
Union. Yet there's a considerable Twain following here.  Mysterious, to
this stranger.

Wishing I could be there, but hoping to hear about it -

Richard Reineccius