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The following is a synopsis
of the 1951 short story, "Mahô no chôku" appearing
as "The Magic Chalk" in English in The Showa Anthology :
Modern Japanese Short Stories 1929-1984 (Japan's Modern Writers) by
Van C. Gessel (Editor), Tomone Matsumoto (Editor) .
All page numbers refer to
the Japanese original in volume 2 of the Abe Kôbô zensakuhin
shû, Tokyo: Shinchôsha, 1972. All translations are my own.
This synopsis, along with
all other materials appearing on this website, is copyrighted. Unauthorized
reproduction is prohibited.
Argon is an impoverished artist, who loves alone in an empty apartment.
With the sole exception of a single chair, he has sold all of his belongings
for food. He sits in his room, tortured by the smell of someone cooking
nearby, when he finds a piece of chalk in his pocket and begins to draw,
without thinking, pictures of food. Later that night he is awakened by
the sound of smashing dishes and finds that all of his drawings have become
real. He draws himself a bed upon which to sleep, and is awakened in the
morning upon falling from his bed. Only he hasn't fallen from his bed,
the bed has disappeared in the sunlight.
That evening he draws a purse full of money and goes to buy the necessary
equipment to keep the sunlight out of his room, thus enabling his drawings
to stay real. When he comes back he tries to draw a window as the closed
off room seemed rather stuffy, but it doesn't materialize as he has not
created anything behind the window. At this point he realizes that he
has the power to create a new world, and after weeks of sketching and
painting he fails to come up with anything that seems appropriate. At
wits end, he draws a door on the wall, and declares that whatever lies
beyond that door is the new world. He opens the door to find a barren
wasteland, the bright sun painful to the eyes. He rapidly closes the door
and sees that there is no easy escape, and that all of the details, from
the very beginning, have to be planned out. At that moment he sees a newspaper,
and on it a picture of Miss Nippon, he decides that she will be the Eve
to his Adam, and draws her picture on the wall.
Eve materializes and is understandably confused, but upon seeing the magic
of the chalk, she finds herself very much interested in the money-making
opportunities of such an item. For her participation in Argon/Adam's scheme,
she demands half of the chalk. When he gives it to her, she draws a pistol,
and points it at Argon. When she draws a hammer with which to break down
the door to the outside world, he jumps for her and is shot. She takes
the hammer and breaks down the door, turning herself and everything else
in the room made of chalk into pictures on the wall. With the sunlight
Argon's bullet wound is healed, but he feels himself being sucked into
the wall. After subsisting solely on food created via chalk drawings on
the wall, he has been transformed into part of it. He becomes a picture
on the wall, lying atop the drawing of Miss Nippon.
The neighbors rush in to see what the commotion is all about and see the
drawings. After some disparaging remarks about Argon's ability as an artist
they leave, and the story ends with the following lines.After the people
had left, a muttering was heard from inside the wall. "It is not
chalk that will remake the world." Then, from the wall, a single
drop of moisture fell. It originated at the exact point of the picture
of Argon's eye. (145)