This page is currently under construction; more commemorative materials will be added soon!
(Wednesday, April 25, 2007)
Memories of Herbert Norman
We only met the diplomat/historian Herbert Norman once, when he was the Canadian representative in Tokyo. But Cyril’s association with the Norman family goes back to boyhood days when they were our nearest Canadian neighbours. The Powles family lived in Takada (the present Jōetsu-shi) while the Normans were in Nagano, two hours by train away. They belonged to the United Church and we were Anglicans but our national interests were the same. When Marjorie and I went to Japan following the Pacific War we were able to renew that friendship with Howard Norman, Herbert’s older brother, and his wife Gwen, and it was they who took us to meet Herbert.
So any mention of the name Herbert Norman brings back many memories. On April 4, 1957, Howard and Gwen, who had been visiting in Tokyo, had arranged to stop over and visit us in Nagoya on their way back to Nishinomiya. That morning on the 8 o’clock NHK news we heard of Herbert’s suicide. Shortly after we received a telegram from Howard with the brief message, “Chokusetsu kaeru” (returning direct). It was a poignant experience that we have never forgotten, and it has led to a lifelong concern with the life, career and work of Herbert Norman.
Marjorie and Cyril Powles
24 March 2007
Questions to Remember
How do we remember? How do we remember someone? How do we remember who we are? How do we remember someone else? How do we remember someone we never knew? How do we remember someone who was a foreigner at birth and became a master of cross-cultural communication? How do we remember someone who was a great writer and teacher? How do we remember someone who has served his country well as a diplomat? How do we remember someone who helped resolve a major international crisis? How do we remember who helped a friend win the Nobel Peace Prize? How do we remember someone repeatedly accused of guilt by association? How do we remember someone who finally took his own life in a distant place? How do we remember someone who is remembered far better in another land than at home? How do we remember someone whose grave is in another country? How do we remember someone who has all but disappeared from the story of our nation? How do we remember someone who has been actively written out of history? How do we remember history? How do we remember Egerton Herbert Norman? How should we remember Herbert Norman? Why should we remember Herbert Norman and others like him? Why should we remember?
Dr. Lawrence T. Woods
Professor of Political Science and International Relations
American University of Sharjah;
Editor of the 60th Anniversary Edition of Herbert Norman’s classic text,
Japan’s Emergence as a Modern State (UBC Press, 2000).
2 April 2007
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
• John Price
(Department of History, University of Victoria)
When I was in university in the 1970's, I read Charles Taylor's book Six Lives, and the chapter about Herbert Norman stunned me. Why was his story (less that twenty years after his death) so obscure? Why did we not know about his extraordinary life, his contributions to Canadian diplomacy, his important impact on post-modern Japan?
Twenty years after that, as a documentary producer at the National Film Board of Canada, I had the chance to put forward ideas for films, and Norman's story came back to me. I'm very proud to have worked with writer/director John Kramer and a talented cast and crew to make THE MAN WHO MIGHT HAVE BEEN, and I do hope that it helps to illuminate his wonderful, strange and tragic life.
Producer, National Film Board (NFB)
All North Americans should applaud the renewed focus on E. H. Norman's life and death. I certainly commend my colleagues at U Vic for remembering the anniversary of Norman's death fifty years ago and for making certain that we do not forget Norman, his good work as scholar and diplomat, and the lingering mystery surrounding his death. Norman's tragic death reminds us that fear can be pathological. For the past twenty five years I have been frustrated by the CIA's refusal to release some sixty-odd secret documents presumably dealing with the US Government's role in Norman's tragic passing. Why, we all should ask, is the CIA fearful of revealing the full truth of American political machinations fifty years ago?
Roger W. Bowen
American Asociation of University Professors