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Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913–1938

Compiled and edited, with introductions and commentary, by WILLIAM J. TYLER
Copyright Date: 2008
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    "William Tyler has assembled a remarkable collection of interwar stories that vividly capture the spirit ofmodanizumu,an assemblage of free-wheeling attitudes towards the pleasures of the lived life, the vicissitudes of contemporary culture, and the ambiguous nature of human personality, providing in the aggregate a series of glittering glimpses into still another artistic Japan, one far removed both from the earnestness of the preceding Meiji period and the ensuing dark years of the Pacific War. Be prepared to rethink the nature of modern Japanese literature; or better still, simply read these often wondrous tales, some tall, some short, one after the other, and enjoy a remarkable, liberating moment in Japanese literary history." -J. Thomas Rimer, professor emeritus of Japanese literature, University of Pittsburgh

    "This is a tour de force that gives readers a full and vivid picture of Japanese literature and its cultural milieu between 1913 and 1938, with smoothly rendered translations of influential works and a thought-provoking critique of how trends and movements during this period have been 'constructed' and 'reinvented' ever since. The book will also serve as an important reference for those studying twentieth-century Japanese literature." -Steve Rabson, professor emeritus of Japanese, Brown University

    "Modanizumuis the first anthology of Japanese modernist prose, and as such it will allow readers to become familiar with a number of fine writers from the modernist period who are little known outside Japan. It also gives the first systematic and comprehensive overview in English of Japanese modernist prose as an experimental phenomenon flourishing in the first few decades of the twentieth century but continuing to exercise widespread influence on Japanese fiction throughout the modern and contemporary periods. The editor's introductory materials provide an original and significant definition of Japanese modernist literature, and his discussion of issues relevant to comparatists makes the book a wonderful bridge between Japanese and Western modernisms." -Janet A. Walker, professor of comparative literature, Rutgers University

    Remarkably little has been written on the subject of modernism in Japanese fiction. Until now there has been neither a comprehensive survey of Japanese modernist fiction nor an anthology of translations to provide a systematic introduction. Only recently have the terms "modernism" and "modernist" become part of the standard discourse in English on modern Japanese literature and doubts concerning their authenticity vis-a-vis Western European modernism remain. This anomaly is especially ironic in view of the decidedly modan prose crafted by such well-known Japanese writers as Kawabata Yasunari, Nagai Kafu, and Tanizaki Jun'ichiro­. By contrast, scholars in the visual and fine arts, architecture, and poetry readily embraced modanizumu as a key concept for describing and analyzing Japanese culture in the 1920s and 1930s.

    This volume addresses this discrepancy by presenting in translation for the first time a collection of twenty-five stories and novellas representative of Japanese authors who worked in the modernist idiom from 1913 to 1938. Its prefatory materials provide a systematic overview of the literary movement's salient features-anti-naturalism, cosmopolitanism, the concept of the double self, and actionism-and describe how modanizumu evolved from its early "jagged edges" into a sophisticated yet popular expression of Japanese urban life in the first half of the twentieth century. The modanist style, characterized by youthful exuberance, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and narrative techniques like superimposition, is amply illustrated.

    Modanizumuintroduces faces altogether new or relatively unknown: Abe Tomoji, Kajii Motojiro, Murayama Kaita, Osaki Midori, Tachibana Sotoo, Takeda Rintaro, Tani Joji, Yoshiyuki Eisuke, and Yumeno Kyusaku. It also revisits such luminaries as Kawabata, Tanizaki, and the detective novelist Edogawa Ranpo. Key works that it culls from the modernist repertoire include Funahashi Seiichi'sDiving, Hagiwara Sakutaro's "Town of Cats," Ito Sei'sStreets of Fiendish Ghosts, and Kawabata's film scenarioPage of Madness. This volume moves beyond conventional views to place this important movement in Japanese fiction within a global context: an indigenous expression born of the fission of local creativity and the fusion of cross-cultural interaction.

    4 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6366-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-48)

    It is one of the anomalies of the study of modern Japanese literature in English that until very recently surprisingly little has been published on the role of modernism in Japanese fiction. Aside from a handful of studies on individual writers, there is no comprehensive survey of the topic. Nor is there an anthology of translations that provides a systematic introduction to the range of Japanese modernist authors and styles. Equally curious is the fact that, while examples of Japan’s most distinguished modernist classics have been available in translation since the late 1950s and early 1960s—one thinks here of...

  5. Part One Anti-Naturalism:: Illuminating the Spectacle

    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 49-65)

      In the 1910s, Japanese modernist prose was in its earliest stages of experimental development, pursued by a handful of independently minded writers. Stories such as Tanizaki’s “The Tattoo/er” and Murayama Kaita’s “The Bust of the Beautiful Young Salaino” are representative of this early phase. The former is well known both in and outside of Japan, and it has been discussed in the introduction to this volume as the initial expression of a nascent literarymodanizumu. The latter is not well known in Japan and not known at all abroad, but like “The Tattoo/er,” it takes up the task of creating...

    • “The Bust of the Beautiful Young Salaino”
      (pp. 66-69)
      Murayama Kaita

      It was a night thick with yearning, a yearning so viscous that it was as if dark purple and precious, black liqueurs had replaced the air and covered the earth. On that terrifying night, little lights shimmered, white and red, throughout the landscape, some near, some far.

      I watched the lights glitter nearby and in the distance. They called to me like a nostalgic longing for the past, reminding me of the eyes of women in ancient Greek art. I could not help thinking someone had gouged out the limpid eyes of beautiful Greek women and strung them across the...

    • “A Shop That Sells Stars”
      (pp. 70-82)
      Inagaki Taruho

      As the sun went down behind the tips of the mountains, a beautiful evening came to town in this seaport city. I put on a fresh shirt, I tied the violet bow tie I’d bought the other day, and out I went.

      By the time I reached Yamamoto Avenue, lined in leafy green sycamores set out in rows like sprockets on a roll of film, a cool breeze was blowing from the sea—a rarity in the dead calm of evening. On the tennis court next to the church, children—Green kids, Pink kids—skipped rope as if they were...

    • “Shoes Fit for a Poet”
      (pp. 83-91)
      Osaki Midori

      The poet Tsuda Saburō lived on the second floor of a Western-style house. The house was painted egg-yellow, and it sat at the foot of a hill.

      Sound cool and refreshing? No doubt it does, but, as a matter of fact, Saburō lived in a dimly lit room that was the attic. The walls rose sharply into a triangle. There was only one window, and it was tiny. Worst of all, it faced due west. No question about it. The room was unfit for human habitation in the heat of summer.

      Besides, Saburō was tall. He had to stoop to...

    • Page of Madness
      (pp. 92-104)
      Kawabata Yasunari

      Night. Roof of an asylum for the insane. Lightning rod. Downpour. Flashes of lightning.

      A showy dancer dancing on a showy stage.

      In front of the stage, iron bars appear. Prison bars.

      The showy stage gradually changes into a cell at the insane asylum.

      The showy costume of the dancer gradually changes into the uniform of a mad person.

      The mad dancer is dancing madly.

      Madman A in Cell 1.

      Madman B in Cell 2.

      Madman C in Cell 3.

      The dancing dancer’s legs.

      A nurse walks down the long hall of the asylum.

      She stops in front of a...

    • Streets of Fiendish Ghosts
      (pp. 105-168)
      Itō Sei

      The sky is overcast and the morning air chilly on my arms as I start down the broad avenue that runs straight from Otaru Station to the waterfront. A string of cargo ships that regularly ply the seas north of Hokkaidō lie at the end of the long, downhill slope. The boats float listlessly in the harbor, their red hulls protruding far above the waterline. Empty of cargo, they ride high, their smokestacks tilting slightly aft as a reddish-brown curl of smoke streams from each stack. The gentle but insistent tapping sound made by small craft engines drifts toward the...

  6. Part Two Cosmopolitanism and Popularization:: Foreign Settings, Exotic Personae, and the Bilingual Gloss

    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 169-186)

      Cosmopolitanism, or what was calledsekai-shugi([one] world + ism), is the second major feature ofmodanistfiction.¹ Like the spectacle discussed in Part 1, the foreign or international foregrounds the exotic and the alien. It does this through the appearance of non-Japanese characters and locales as well as through a strikinglymodanimprovement on a late Edo and Meiji invention that I refer to as the bilingual gloss. Moreover, the introduction of the international was closely aligned with the effort to popularize literature. By breaking down barriers existing between high- and lowbrow fiction, and breaking out of the prison...

    • A Tale of Trouble from the Bar Roulette
      (pp. 187-241)
      Tachibana Sotoo

      This is the story of how in July of the year before last the Dutchman H. D. Karl Richter and I opened a bar in the Ginza. It is also the story of how the following April, or less than a year later, we sold the business after having been reduced to a state of physical and mental prostration. To wit, it is a tale of how one Dutchman and one Japanese, each a babbling idiot representative of the height of lunacy from his native land, poured heart and soul into a collective international enterprise. By throwing all care and...

    • “The Japan-Germany Track Competition”
      (pp. 242-254)
      Abe Tomoji

      September 1929. Siberia was frozen solid gray. On board the train heading east toward Vladivostok were tourists from Europe, the United States, and Japan, as well as concessionaires, scholars, and several Soviet military officers. In addition, there were more than a dozen German athletes accompanied by two of their coaches. Since the beginning of 1929, the Germans had defeated every team they played—the English, the French, and the Swiss—and now they were headed to Tokyo. They had committed themselves to a strict regimen of exercise on board in order to combat the strain brought on by the long-distance...

    • “A Negro in Cinema”
      (pp. 255-269)
      Abe Tomoji

      One day the young poet Henry Brooks, who hailed from St. Louis in the Midwest of the United States, was walking down Hollywood Boulevard. Everything seemed strange and new to him. It was February, but the sky glowed with an almost violet light that made the smooth surface of the asphalt have a slick, bright blue color. Moreover, there were already leaves on the trees, and they rustled in the wind as if it were early summer. Right behind Brooks came three girls carrying fencing equipment for gym class at school. It was such a lovely, warm day. The heat...

    • “The Two-Sen Copper Coin”
      (pp. 270-289)
      Edogawa Ranpo

      “Boy, that thief makes me jealous!”

      That was the sort of remark my roommate and I exchanged at the time. That’s how desperate we were for money.

      I speak of the days when Matsumura Takeshi and I lay idly about our one-room apartment, our heads filled with nothing but foolish daydreams. We lived in a cramped six-mat room, furnished with two beaten-up paper-ply desks lined up side by side. We lived on the outskirts of Tokyo, and the room was on the second floor of a shabby-looking shop that sold wooden clogs. There we were, just the two of us,...

    • “The Shanghaied Man”
      (pp. 290-302)
      Tani Jōji

      Hadn’t he gotten out of bed at least once in the middle of the night? Tossing and turning because of the moaning sounds made by the roommate sleeping next to him, he had stepped briefly into the back garden from the edge of the veranda, hadn’t he? It could not have been for long, though. Exhausted from a whole day’s search for work, Tamekichi crawled back into bed almost immediately. Or so it seemed. He could not be sure. But he knew he heard the moans of the man with whom he shared the room. The man had been in...

    • “Love after Death”
      (pp. 303-320)
      Yumeno Kyūsaku

      Ha ha ha ha ha……. Sorry about that. I see I’ve startled you. Oh, you thought I was a beggar? …… Ha ha ha ha ha……. What a laugh!

      So you had no idea I was the “crazy vagabond gentleman” who’s been creating such a stir here in Vladivostok, did you? …… Ha ha……. I see. I can understand how you might have thought that. Out of the blue, a fellow appears dressed in an old-fashioned, ceremonial uniform so worn and tattered it wouldn’t sell in the thieves’ market. Suddenly he accosts you, a fine, upstanding member of the Japanese...

  7. Part Three Modanizumu as the Multiple Self:: Doppelgängers, Alter Egos, and Nonessentialism

    • [Part Three Introduction]
      (pp. 321-333)

      The frequency with which capital letters of the alphabet introduce fictional characters—or, to a lesser extent, geographical places—comes as something of a surprise to readers of Japanese modernist prose. Non-Japanese readers are quick to notice it and often ask why. Only one other question rivals it, but that concerns a matter purely technical in nature: namely, what was the value of the Japanese yen vis-à-vis, for example, the US dollar in the 1920s and 1930s? And how does that value translate into contemporary sums? As a general rule of thumb, one yen equaled fifty cents, and the dollar...

    • “The Lemon”
      (pp. 334-339)
      Kajii Motojirō

      I could no longer suppress the inexplicable, ominous lump in my throat. Was it impatience? Was it disgust? Like the hangover that follows a night’s drinking, so at last comes one hell of a climax to having gotten drunk every day. It had come, and it wasn’t good. Not because of the lung inflammation or the nervous prostration that followed. Nor because of the debts that would take the hide off my back. What was no good was the ominous lump in my throat.

      No matter how beautiful the poetry or music that had once delighted me, I could bear...

    • “The Ascension of K” or His Deathy by Drowning
      (pp. 340-345)
      Kajii Motojirō

      One can appreciate from your letter the bewilderment that you feel in attempting to explain the death of your good friend K. Was it an accident? Or suicide? If the latter, then why? Did K despair of being cured of tuberculosis?

      I believe that is why you have written me. Although we have never met, you know of me as his friend. K and I became acquainted during the month after we first encountered each other, quite by accident, on the beach near the sanatorium at N.

      Your letter brought me the first word of his death. It came as...

    • “Feelings Atop a Cliff”
      (pp. 346-357)
      Kajii Motojirō

      It was early on a hot, sticky summer evening. Two young men were talking in a café in the hilly Yamanote section of Tokyo. They did not appear to be friends, judging from their conversation.

      Of course, a small, cramped Yamanote café will not permit the liberties of a coffee shop in the Ginza, for example, where lone customers are free to sit and silently kill time studying whoever is seated at other tables. But a lack of freedom—along with the intimacy generated by a lack of space—can have the effect of bringing customers together. The two young...

    • “The Story of R-chan and S” A Sentimental Episode
      (pp. 358-375)
      Inagaki Taruho

      White as feathers from the breast of a baby bird, clouds were floating lightly across the indigo sky.

      The mountains to the north traced a long, graceful curve from the east to the west, and from there, the land sloped gently toward the sea. On the left, the landscape of K[obe], a city so harmonious and picturesque that it made one think of a painting of a foreign landscape, stretched from the foot of the mountains. Beyond a cluster of shipbuilding cranes, which reached straight into the sky like mighty giants, rested a group of steamboats lined up with their...

    • “The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait”
      (pp. 376-394)
      Edogawa Ranpo

      If this story is not a dream of mine or a hallucination brought on by a temporary state of insanity, then surely the man traveling with the brocade portrait was himself insane. Yet, like a dreamer who is permitted to peek at a world other than our own or a lunatic who hears and sees what the rest of us cannot, it may well be that I happened to catch a glimpse—if only for an instant—of something that lies beyond the field of vision in our world, and by using the bizarre mechanism of the atmosphere as my...

  8. Part Four Modanizumu in Politics:: Diving into Actionism

    • [Part Four Introduction]
      (pp. 395-405)

      In the introduction to this volume, I noted howmodanizumualigned itself with the nonideological lifestyle isms of liberalism, feminism, humanism, and internationalization. But getting a handle on the political implications of anizumuthat avoids or rejects fixed positions and of personal lifestyle strategies that pursue the new and still newer in matters of taste and fashion is not easily accomplished. Like all situational ethics, the aesthetic and morality of themodanresists definition and is highly contextual. Moreover, it was by its very nature caught in a perennial tug-of-war between an orientation toward social iconoclasm, on the one...

    • “The Caterpillar”
      (pp. 406-422)
      Edogawa Ranpo

      Leaving the main house in the gathering darkness and crossing the wide open, overgrown yard left to the thriving weeds, Tokiko headed toward the detached building in which she and her husband lived. She recalled with a truly strange sensation the same old trite words of praise that the owner of the house, a major general in the reserves, had used moments ago. Hearing them again left an unpleasant taste in her mouth similar to what she felt when she bit into eggplant grilled in oil. It had a slippery, flaccid taste. And how she detested it!

      “It goes without...

    • “The Censor”
      (pp. 423-444)
      Tanizaki Jun’ichirō

      “Oh, sorry to have kept you waiting so long. So, you must be Mr. K, the famous writer? I’ve known your name for quite some time.” The censor, T, bowed and greeted K almost obsequiously. It was a display of tact uncommon among bureaucrats in the Metropolitan Police Department.

      K was a bit taken aback. At the mere mention of a government official whose job it was to control the publication of literary materials, he expected someone terribly arrogant and stubborn. Yet T seemed a reasonable sort, if first impressions were an indication. Unlike a street patrolman or a lowly...

    • “Colorful Shinjuku”
      (pp. 445-452)
      Yoshiyuki Eisuke

      Situation Wanted

      Woman Drive Motorcycle. Age 19.

      Contact: Mukōyama Reiko

      With its cramped and narrow streets, Shinjuku is a pair of feet tightly shod in the slippers of the suburbs. Relegated to the skirts of Tokyo, its inhabitants reside within the heelless interior of a woman’s shoe. They rise and don a greathappicoat as day breaks and their neighborhoods are awash in a materialistic jumble of gaudy colors.Happilyignorant of the salaciousness it covers, the coat hides beneath it all of the silk slips that got soiled in the night.

      The morning edition reports the suicide of...

    • “The Love of Kishimo”
      (pp. 453-461)
      Okamoto Kanoko

      Whenever Kishimo saw someone’s children, she wanted to eat them. Why?

      Trailing a basket from her hand, Kishimo went to town to do some shopping. Like any normal housewife, she thought on the way of the prices she would have to pay for wild honey, donkey tallow, and the like. She also happened to think that perhaps—just perhaps—the carcass of an animal half-eaten by a lion or tiger might have been dragged to town from the forest. It would be sitting in front of the butcher shop that she often patronized. She would be able to buy the...

    • “Japan’s Three-Penny Opera”
      (pp. 462-481)
      Takeda Rintarō

      White clouds. Helium-filled ad balloons in midair. Glimpsed against the high-rise stone buildings of Tokyo, glinting a techno-gray-silver in the light of the sun’s rays—“Why, it’s the spitting image of the modern city!” people exclaim in admiration. You’ll get no argument from me. Now let your eye run down the broad banners that, in bold red and blue characters, advertise “The Erotic Sorceress Tenshō” or “Grand Opening of Cabaret Something-or-Other.” People on the street may not see it, but there, swaying in the breeze and trailing at the end of the banners, is a rope. It leads us to...

    • “Kamagasaki”
      (pp. 482-500)
      Takeda Rintarō

      It has been reported that several visitors who came to the area without a guide wandered deep into its weltering slum and were never heard from again….

      This is the way a poorly written guidebook to the city of Osaka and environs concludes the section on the district known as Kamagasaki. The district—also known by its nickname of “Under the Trestle”—starts south of the car barn for the municipal streetcar located at Ebisu-chō and the overhead trestle of the Kansai railway line. Its main thoroughfare runs along what was once the Old Kishū Road that dates from the...

    • Diving
      (pp. 501-541)
      Funahashi Seiichi

      Usui had definitely put on weight. There was something womanish about the way he sat, his elbows propped on the table as he jabbed repeatedly at the raspberry ice with his spoon. He looked as if he were ready to say something, yet he fell silent for the longest time. Just then, a bolt of lightning flashed outside. Like a bullet piercing the restaurant window, the light shot across the white tablecloth in a cold blue streak. On this summer evening, a thunderstorm was rapidly approaching the Ginza from the west.

      “Okay, I get it. Now I understand what you...

    • “The Town of Cats” A Fantasy in the Manner of a Prose Poem
      (pp. 542-553)
      Hagiwara Sakutarō

      The quality that incites the desire for travel has gradually disappeared from my fantasies. Before, however, symbols of travel were all that filled my thoughts. Just to picture a train, steamboat, or town in an unfamiliar foreign land was enough to make my heart dance. But experience has taught me that travel presents nothing more than “identical objects moving in identical spaces.” No matter where one goes, one finds the same sort of people living in similar villages and repeating the same humdrum lives. One finds merchants in every small country town spending their days clicking abacuses and watching the...

    • “Mars’ Song”
      (pp. 554-582)
      Ishikawa Jun

      There it is again—that song. How shall I describe the feeling it evokes in me? It is twilight. I sit in my room alone. To my ear comes the clamorous sound of the popular refrain. It originates in the madness of the streets, its frenzied crescendo rising to a fever pitch to assault my window. It is “Mars’ Song” of which I speak.

      In this realm with gods somnolent,

      Where the voice of wisdom has fallen silent, utterly silent,

      What will ensue in the hour when you, Mars, rise and gird for battle?

      “How bold!” “How valiant!” they sing…....

  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 583-588)
  10. Translators
    (pp. 589-590)
  11. Index
    (pp. 591-609)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 610-610)