CHAT: Sax Rohmer
|From:||Leo Caesius <leo_caesius@...>|
|Date:||Friday, September 8, 2000, 15:17|
Just recently I finished reading the first book in the Dr. Fu Manchu
series ("The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu," released in the States as "The
Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu"), written (1913) by a fellow named Arthur Sarsfield
Ward (1883-1959). This author is better known under the pseudonym Sax
Rohmer, which, by his own admission, means "Blade Roamer" (no, not "Blade
Runner," but awfully close IMHO).
My question to the list is this: what language is this? It looks
somewhat Germanic but means nothing in German. The name seems as "made up"
as that of his antagonist, Dr. Fu Manchu.
Sax Rohmer's writings were rather incorrect (politically) from the
standpoint of today. In fact, it's so un-PC, it is actually humorous (trust
me, Rohmer is an equal-opportunity discriminator - the "East" of his
imagination starts around Southern Italy and runs all the way to East Asia).
However, the Chinese and the people of India ("Thugs, Lascars, and
Dacoits") shoulder the heaviest portion of Rohmer's racist prose. Take this
quote about the good Dr. himself:
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow
like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long,
magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning
of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the
resources, if you will, of a wealthy government - which, however, already
has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and
you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in
Later in the book he says "no white man could ever fathom the
emotionless cruelty of the Chinese." I've had several occasions to deploy
that comment (in jest, of course) when my better half (who comes from the
ROC) was vexing me.
Another question that interests me is the depth of Rohmer's influence
on other writers. Although he is completely absent from the bookshelves of
modern bookstores (and I've tried searching in practically every bookstore
in Cambridge - that's a lot of bookstores!), he was quite influential at one
time. I'm certain I see echoes of Dr. Fu Manchu in Lovecraft's writings
(particularly Lovecraft's more racist invectives, which were concentrated
in, but by no means limited to, the zone delineated by Rohmer to contain
"the East"), and possibly those of Philip K. Dick (Blade Roamer? Blade
Roamer?? What does that mean, anyway - and also, IMHO, Dick had a love-hate
relationship with "the East" - look at the mental struggle of the character
R. Childan in "The Man in the High Castle").
A further aspect of his literature which will interest ConLangers is
Nayland Smith's use of "Chinese Pidgin" in the opium den (which inevitably
makes an appearance early in the book). I think Rohmer did his research;
it's a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.
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