Remembering Donald Richie

Ouder-Amstel, Netherlands

It has been said by some who treasure the fact and very idea of human life that when someone dies who has lived it consciously for some time, an entire universe dies with him or her. A unique universe of thought, understanding and taste.

It was the first thought that hit me when hearing about writer Donald Richie’s death (last week at 88). What a human universe he embodied. And what good fortune regularly to have caught glimpses of it. Most who knew about him had their glimpses from his writing, some perhaps from his pictures — he painted too.

But Donald’s universe was most enjoyably experienced in conversation. Only then could one appreciate what a connoisseur he was of serious music. I can still hear him explaining which of the six Bartok string quartets was played best by which quartet. And I owe him greatly for urging me to “give Bruckner another chance!”

Among my most treasured Japan memories are the weekly lunches we had with Ed Seidensticker in an Indian restaurant in Ueno whenever the three of us were “home” in Tokyo. On those occasions we would tease Ed with his Mozart fixation, and would jointly be ready to defend whatever was French against his assaults.

But for over a year Donald no longer relished life. His health no longer allowed him to continue living it his way. His universe had petered out, leaving us to remember its splendor.

karel van wolferen
ouder-amstel, netherlands

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.