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Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913–1938

William J. Tyler (ed.)

Publication Year: 2008

"William Tyler has assembled a remarkable collection of interwar stories that vividly capture the spirit of modanizumu, 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

"Modanizumu is 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.

Modanizumu introduces 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’s Diving, Hagiwara Sakutaro’s "Town of Cats," Ito Sei’s Streets of Fiendish Ghosts, and Kawabata’s film scenario Page 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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix- xii

This study began as a series of seminars in which my graduate students and I read extensively in the short and long fiction written by Japanese modernists during the 1920s and 1930s. Like the modern boys and girls of that bygone day, we thought ourselves intrepid, inquisitive, and running in the avant-garde. First, there was the great...

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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...

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Part One: Anti-Naturalism: Illuminating the Spectacle

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pp. 49-65

In the 1920s, 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...

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The Bust of the Beautiful Young Salaino

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pp. 66-69

Murayama Kaita is best known for his paintings, which include the masterpiece Kosui to onna (1917, Lake with Women), sometimes known as the "Mona Lisa of Japan." During his short life, Kaita also wrote poetry and prose, although most of it was published posthumously in two volumes...

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A Shop That Sells Stars

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pp. 70-82

Born in Osaka and raised and educated in Kobe, Inagaki Taruho was fascinated by the exoticism of living in an international port; by the new technologies of the twentieth century, especially the airplane, the automobile, and moving pictures; and by the Futurists, who celebrated the city and speed of modern life. Moving to Tokyo in 1921...

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Shoes Fit for a Poet

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pp. 83-91

Originally from Tottori Prefecture (where the family name is pronounced Osaki rather than Ozaki), Midori moved to Tokyo, where she was active in women's modernist circles from 1924 to 1932. She was closely associated with the writers Hayashi Fumiko and Hirabayashi Taiko as well as the most progressive of women's magazines...

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Page of Madness

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pp. 92-104

As the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature—in 1968 for the novel Yukiguni (1935-1937, 1947; trans. Snow Country, 1957)—Kawabata needs little introduction. He was an early modernist, even if he is often thought of as a spokesman for traditional Japanese culture. Indeed, the critic...

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Streets of Fiendish Ghosts

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pp. 105-167

As the doyen of Japanese letters int he 1960s, Itō Sei, also known as Itō Hitoshi, is widely known for his translations of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922; co-translated with Nagamatsu Sadamu and Tsujino Hisanori, 1931-1934) and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928; abridged translation, 1935; unabridged, 1950). Both were...

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

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pp. 169-186

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 strikingly modan improvement on a late Edo and Meiji invention that I refer to as the bilingual gloss. Moreover...

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A Tale of Trouble from the Bar Roulette

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pp. 187-241

Never before translated and unknown outside Japan, the works of Tachibana Sotoo address two features of Japanese modernist fiction: cosmopolitanism and commercialization. The novella presented here, Sakaba Ruretto funjōki (sometimes glossed as Bā Ruretto toraburu), introduces the Dutchman Karl....

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The Japan-Germany Track Competition

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pp. 242-254

Abe studied at Tokyo Imperial University (1924-1927) with the British poet, pacifist, and visiting lecturer Edmund Blunden (1896-1974). He became conversant with British modernism, especially the concepts of intellectualism associated with the poets and critics T. E. Hulme, Herbert Read, and T. S. Eliot, which he introduced in his...

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A Negro in Cinema

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pp. 255-269

Modanizumu was often associated with Americanization, especially in conservative and nationalistic circles that saw Hollywood films, dance halls, and jazz bands as a baleful influence on traditional Japanese mores. Indeed modernists were the precursors of today's globalization, and they played a role in initiating both the homogenization...

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The Two-Sen Copper Coin

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pp. 270-289

Edogawa Ranpo is the pen name of Hirai Tarō, one of the most popular authors of the early Shōwa period and a key figure in the development of detective and mystery fiction in Japan. His pseudonym echoes the name of Edgar Allan Poe, whom Ranpo greatly admired. Poe was known in Japan by the 1890s, and his works...

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The Shanghaied Man

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pp. 290-302

Opportunities for living abroad were limited to diplomats, scholars, and students after the end of Japan's long period of national isolation. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, wealthy Japanese were imbibing the high culture of European capitals, while waves of emigrants relocated to the Americas and Pacific Islands. In 1920 Hasegawa...

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Love after Death

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pp. 303-320

Yumeno Kyūsaku is the pen name of Sugiyama Taidō, first son of the Kyūshū ultranationalist Sugiyama Shigemaru (1864-1935). Shigemaru was actively involved in the Dark Ocean Society (Genyōsha), which advocated Japanese expansion into Asia and suppression of labor unions at home. He also played...

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

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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...

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The Lemon

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pp. 334-339

Kajii Motojirō is the example par excellence of the literary youths (bungaku seinen) who created the coterie magazines (dōjin zasshi) in which most modernists began their literary apprenticeship and career. Born in Osaka, he attended the Third Higher School in Kyoto...

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The Ascension of K—or His Death by Drowning

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pp. 340-345

Tuberculosis forced Kajii to interrupt his university studies and move to the warmer climate of the Izu Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo, to convalesce. There he met the young novelist Kawabata Yasunari and the poet Hagiwara Sakutarō, his first major contacts with the professional literary world...

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Feelings Atop a Cliff

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pp. 346-357

Published in Bungei toshi (1928-1929, Literary City) magazine, "Feelings Atop a Cliff" marks Kajii's transition to commercial publication. Although he did not get paid for his work, he was writing for a larger audience than that of the coterie magazines, and the journal was distributed commercially. The editor of the...

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The Story of R-chan and S

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pp. 358-375

Many of the stories that Inagaki published int he early 1920s are fantastic tales like "A Shop that Sells Stars" introduced earlier in this anthology. With "The Story of R-chan and S" he began to develop another theme that became a major focus, if not a philosophy, in his fiction and essays: namely, the love of beautiful adolescent...

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The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait

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pp. 376-393

Appreciation of "The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait" requires background information. First, Uozu is a city on the Japan Sea famous for mirages that can be seen from its beaches. Second, until it was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, a twelve-story brick tower, knowns as the Ryōunkaku, was...

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Part Four: Modanizumu in Politics: Diving into Actionism

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pp. 395-405

In the introduction to this volume, I noted how modanizumu aligned itself with the nonideological lifestyle isms of liberalism, feminism, humanism, and internationalism. But getting a handle on the political implications of an izumu that avoids or rejects fixed positions and of personal lifestyle strategies...

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The Caterpillar

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pp. 406-422

"The Caterpillar" is a strange but spellbinding account of the relationship between Lieutenant Sunaga and his wife Tokiko, which Ranpo once described as "a study in extreme pain and pleasure, and the tragedy that results." As the story begins, three years have elapsed since the lieutenant's miraculous deeds on an unspecified...

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The Censor

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pp. 423-444

Tanizaki requires little introduction. As discussed in the introduction to this anthology, The Makioka sisters established his name internationally, and "The Tattoo/er," Naomi, and Portrait of Shunkin are classics of Japanese modernist fiction. It is not as well known, however, that Tanizaki also wrote for...

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Colorful Shinjuku

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pp. 445-452

Like the poet Takahashi Shinkichi (1901-1978), who issued Japan's first Dadaist manifesto (1921, "Dangen wa dadaisuto"), Yoshiyuki was drawn to the Dada movement that originated in Europe in 1916. He admired it for its irreverent disregard for received notions of beauty, logic, and order. Though born to a...

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The Love of Kishimo

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pp. 453-461

The daughter of a wealthy family, Kanoko was born in Tokyo and educated at the prestigious Atomi Girls' School, where she developed a lifelong interest in Buddhism. In 1906 she began her literary career as a tanka poet, studying under the famous female poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) and contributing to journals that...

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Japan's Three-Penny Opera

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pp. 462-481

Of the works included in this anthology, two selections from Takeda Rintarō come closest to combining modernist aesthetics with left-wing politics. Their focus is neither the pretty middle-school girl and boy (bishōjo, bishōnen) nor the life of culture (bunka seikatsu) pursued by middle-class families...

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pp. 482-500

The title of this story, "Kamagasaki," designates a notorious slum that exists in the city of Osaka even today, although its official name has been changed to the Airin district. During his youth, Takeda was exposed to urban poverty because his father, a policeman, was assigned to work in various impoverished neighborhoods...

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pp. 501-541

Educated at Mito Higher School in Sendai (1921-1925) and the Department of Japanese Literature at Tokyo Imperial University (1925-1928), Funahashi Seiichi became a leading exponent of actionism (kōdō-shugi). He was a founder of Kōdō (1933-1935, Action!) magazine, a voice for liberalism...

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The Town of Cats: A Fantasy in the Manner of a Prose Poem

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pp. 542-553

Hagiwara Sakutarō was one of the foremost poets of twentieth-century Japan. He began writing tanka in his teenage years and published them in Myōjō (1900-1908, The Morning Star) and other leading journals of traditional Japanese verse. But he soon branched into freer...

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Mars' Song

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pp. 554-581

Born in Tokyo and educated in French literature at the Tokyo School for Foreign Languages (1918-1912), Ishiwaka Jun was among the first to translate the works of the Frnech modernist André Gide into Japanese: L'immoraliste in 1924 and Les caves du Vatican in 1928. After nearly a decade of artistic vagabondage...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 583-588


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pp. 589-590


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pp. 591-605

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863661
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824832421

Publication Year: 2008