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Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions

Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions: An Introduction

Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions
    Book Description:

    Thomas Rimer's book seeks to explain the background, structural principles, and development of pre-modem and modern Japanese fiction in a way that is comprehensive, methodical, and accessible to the general reader.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5663-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. I Introduction
    (pp. 3-21)

    Since the Second World War, an increasing number of translations have made available to the Western world an ever broader range of Japanese fiction, ranging from the early poem tales to the newest existentialist fashions of Abe Kōbō. These translations find readers, and some have achieved lasting reputations. Still, the comments often made in the press or in reviews suggest a certain dissatisfaction felt by readers. The forms in which these narratives are cast—short story, novella, novel, reminiscence—seem familiar yet somehow malformed with respect to our expectations. We are attracted, yet disconcerted by what we find.

    Or so...

  5. II Tanizaki Junichirō: The Past as Homage A Portrait of Shunkin and The Bridge of Dreams
    (pp. 22-37)

    For many readers, the work of Tanizaki Junichir̄o (1886-1965) remains the most absorbing in modern Japanese literature, and in many ways, for its period, the most contemporary in spirit. Tanizaki examined the foibles and obsessions of his time with an elegant and ironic spirit that continues to give his work a surprising freshness. Yet an analysis of his writing indicates a powerful interest on his part in the themes and techniques of older Japanese literature. His perception of these older traditions, and his use of them, help provide the richness of texture that gives his narratives their grace and their...

  6. III Natsume Sōseki: The Past as Style Kusamakura
    (pp. 38-61)

    The homage Tanizaki paid to the past was an important aspect of his art; but in Natsume Sōseki’s remarkable 1906 novelKusamakura(translated by Alan Turney asThe Three-Cornered World), traditional literary techniques are recast in the light of Sōseki’s own modern sensibility to produce not only a satisfying novel in its own terms but a virtual handbook of traditional aesthetic attitudes and methods. Sōseki (1867-1916) is one of the two great literary figures of his period (Mori Ōgai is the other). Both loved Western literature, went abroad, and did much to introduce the best of nineteenth-century European prose and...

  7. IV Antecedents: The Tale, the Diary, the monogatari, the Essay
    (pp. 62-81)

    The use of the word “novel” in Japanese (shōsetsu, literally something approximating “short account”) can be extended backwards only for a hundred years or less. What a Western reader might roughly consider as fiction in the earlier periods spreads itself among a number of traditional genres of Japanese literature, most of which seem to have definitions that show considerable variance during their own long histories. In general, the tale, the diary, themonogatari, and the essay all seem to possess in varying amounts certain characteristics of Western fiction; on the other hand, these forms contain elements that often seem to...

  8. V Source Books I: Tales of Ise, The Tale of Genji
    (pp. 82-96)

    Themonogatari, in its prose and poetic forms, bears the closest resemblance of any traditional genre to modern Japanese fiction, and indeed this form provided a certain actual prototype in terms of the formation of psychological and aesthetic sensibilities in writers and readers alike. From the end of the Heian period until the end of the nineteenth century, to be cultivated meant to have read and studied these works and to have absorbed the kind of expectations and pleasures they provided. BothTales of IseandThe Tale of Genjiserved as sourcebooks for later periods in Japanese literature (and...

  9. VI Source Books II: The Tale of the Heike and the nō Drama
    (pp. 97-122)

    IfTales of Iseseems an unlikely progenitor for prose fiction, anothermonogatari, theHeike monogatari(The Tale of the Heike) may seem an even stranger candidate. This long account of the 1185 civil war that plagued Japan serves as a chronicle of the development of the military and political power of the new warrior class which brought an end to the ascendancy of the Heian aristocracy.Heikeis a classic of Japanese prose literature no less influential thanThe Tale of Genji. The work is certainly not a novel, although most of its episodes are constructed along the lines...

  10. VII Ueda Akinari: The Past as Art Tales of Moonlight and Rain
    (pp. 123-137)

    The rich literary heritage of the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) presents for the Western reader another higher level of complexity than does the literature written during the preceding medieval era. The “Tokugawa peace” brought a new audience for literature, new philosophical modes of thought, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the development of a new historical self-consciousness. Such social and intellectual changes occurred slowly and brought diverse and sometimes contradictory influences to bear on all the Japanese arts. The literary monuments from this period all manifest the responses of their authors to shifts in ideas and attitudes to which their society...

  11. VIII Nagai Kafū and Mori Ōgai: The Past versus the Present The River Sumida and Sanshō the Steward
    (pp. 138-161)

    The beginning of the Meiji Period, in 1868, brought as radical changes to Japan as any society has possibly ever undergone. The arrival of ideas from the West, and the government’s decision to encourage study abroad, sent a significant number of Japanese, often young people at the beginning of their careers, to Europe and America. Their purpose in travelling was to carry out the challenge set down in the words of the Charter Oath of 1868: “knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule.” Along with banking, railroad construction, school administration, and...

  12. IX Kawabata Yasunari: Eastern Approaches Snow Country
    (pp. 162-181)

    Kawabata yasunari (1899-1972) was perhaps the most respected of the modern Japanese novelists who made manifest both in his fiction and in his critical writings an enthusiastic debt to the past. His choice as the recipient of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature indicates that foreign readers as well as his Japanese public continued to respond to the kind of evocative style of which Kawabata was capable. The increasing number of translations of his work available suggest further that his popularity continues unabated. Among those works known outside Japan,Yukiguni(Snow Country), written in 1937, has attracted the most comment...

  13. X Dazai Osamu: The Death of the Past The Setting Sun
    (pp. 182-199)

    Dazai, who was born in 1909 and who committed suicide in 1948, reveals in his life and writings all the tensions felt by Japanese intellectuals in those difficult years before, during, and just after the Pacific War. While attending Tokyo University, where he took courses in French literature, Dazai joined a coterie of young people interested in pursuing a Marxist analysis of society. Much of his work shows a consciousness of social realities at a time when economic hardship made life in his urban environment increasingly difficult. Dazai’s first works were published in the mid 1930s; during the war, he...

  14. XI The Tale of Genji as a Modern Novel
    (pp. 200-244)

    Nothing prepares us for a masterpiece. All the other novels so far discussed in this study were created, consciously or unconsciously, under the shade of this great tree,The Tale of Genji. Lady Murasaki’s novel made possible, very early in the long Japanese tradition, a degree of psychological introspection and a concern for aesthetic and, by implication, philosophical truths that set high standards for Japanese narrative. Indeed, some critics have suggested that the long and sophisticated history of Japanese fiction owes its very existence to the presence of a text of this quality, created toward the very beginnings. Traditions, of...

  15. XII Tradition and Contemporary Consciousness: Ibuse, Endō, Kaiko, Abe
    (pp. 245-270)

    Kawabata yasunari, in a lecture given in 1969, shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, gave voice to his concerns over the future development of Japanese literature:

    I write primarily novels, but I wonder whether the novel is still the most suitable art form or literary form for the present age, and I also wonder whether the age of the novel might not be coming to an end, or even the age of literature itself might not be vanishing…. In Japan, almost a century after the importation of Western literature, nothing has reached the heights of the...

  16. XIII A Few Final Remarks
    (pp. 271-274)

    Western views of Japanese literature have been greatly altered since the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when sudden and intensive contact between the West and Japan brought about the first examinations of the native muse by outside observers. At first, many were disappointed by what they found. Nothing seemed to answer to their rightful expectations. W. G. Aston, in his 1899A History of Japanese Literature, the first book in English on the subject, made a number of judgments on Japanese literature and the Japanese literary tradition that reflect more about his own sensibilities and those of his epoch...

  17. Appendix I: Taketori monogatari
    (pp. 275-306)
  18. APPENDIX II: A Brief Bibliography for Further Reading
    (pp. 307-310)
  19. Index
    (pp. 311-314)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)