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Oe and Beyond

Fiction in Contemporary Japan

Stephen Snyder

Publication Year: 1999

Are the works of contemporary Japanese novelists, as Nobel Prize winner Oe Kenzaburo has observed, "mere reflections of the vast consumer culture of Tokyo and the subcultures of the world at large"? Or do they contain their own critical components, albeit in altered form? Oe and Beyond surveys the accomplishments of Oe and other writers of the postwar generation while looking further to examine the literary parameters of the "Post-Oe" generation. Despite the unprecedented availability today of the work of many of these writers in excellent English translations, some twenty years have passed since a collection of critical essays has appeared to guide the interested reader through the fascinating world of contemporary Japanese fiction. Oe and Beyond is a sampling of the best research and thinking on the current generation of Japanese writers being done in English. The essays in this volume explore such subjects as the continuing resonances of the atomic bombings; the notion of "transnational subjects"; the question of the "de-canonization" (as well as the "re-canonization") of writers; the construction (and deconstruction) of gender models; the quest for spirituality amid contemporary Japanese consumer affluence; post-modernity and Japanese "infantilism"; the intertwining connections between history, myth-making, and discrimination; and apocalyptic visions of fin de siecle Japan. Contributors pursue various methodological and theoretical approaches to reveal the breadth of scholarship on modern Japanese literature. The essays reflect some of the latest thinking, both Western and Japanese, on such topics as subjectivity, gender, history, modernity, and the postmodern. Oe and Beyond includes essays on Endo Shusaku, Hayashi Kyoko, Kanai Mieko, Kurahashi Yumiko, Murakami Haruki, Murakami Ryu, Nakagami Kenji, Oe Kenzaburo, Ohba Minako, Shimada Masahiko, Takahashi Takako, and Yoshimoto Banana.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The idea for this volume came from a panel organized for the Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies meeting held in Mexico City in 1993. The editors were fortunate to be joined on the panel by Van Gessel, and Sharalyn Orbaugh served as discussant and voice of reason. We would like to express our thanks to them and all the other friends and colleagues who subsequently ...

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pp. 1-10

On the evening of October 13, 1994, as reporters began to gather outside Ôe Kenzaburô’s home in suburban Tokyo, a cycle in Japanese literary history was coming to an end. With the awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature, a writer whose career had been marked by literary resistance and (at least symbolic) marginality was officially installed as an icon of mainstream mass culture. It

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1. Ōe Kenzaburō and the Search for the Sublime at the End of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 11-35

Ôe Kenzaburô (b. 1935), Japan’s second Nobel Prize winner in literature, was born in a small village amid the mountains of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four major islands. Too young to serve in the Pacific War that would engulf his country until 1945, Ôe was still deeply impressed by the emperor-centered ideology that was taught to all schoolchildren. Although, ...

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2. The Road to the River: The Fiction of Endō Shūsaku

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pp. 47-68

Endô Shûsaku (1923–1996) was perhaps the most influential and popular Christian writer in postwar Japan. He was born in Tokyo but spent his early youth with his family in Manchuria, where his father was working for a Japanese bank. Taken back to Japan by his mother after she divorced her husband, Endô followed his mother’s example and was baptized a ...

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3. Temporal Discontinuity in the Atomic Bomb Fiction of Hayashi Kyōko

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pp. 58-88

Hayashi Ky

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4. Demons, Transnational Subjects, and the Fiction of Ohba Minako

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pp. 89-103

Ohba Minako was born on November 11, 1930. Her family moved frequently when she was young, and she attended several schools, including Aichi Toyobashi Women’s High School and Yamaguchi Iwakuni Women’s High School. When she was fourteen, Ohba was sent to Hiroshima prefecture as part of the wartime student mobilization project, which involved ...

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5. Double Vision: Divided Narrative Focus in Takahashi Takako's Yosōi Seyo, Waga Tamashii Yo

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pp. 104-129

Takahashi Takako was born in Kyoto in 1932. She graduated from the Department of French Literature at Kyoto University in 1954 and, in the same year, married fellow author Takahashi Kazumi. She received an M.A. in French Literature in 1958 and, by the time of her withdrawal from literary circles in the mid-1980s, she had established a reputation as ...

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6. In The Trap of Words: Nakagami Kenji and the Making of Degenerate Fictions

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pp. 130-152

Nakagami Kenji was born on August 2, 1946, in Shingû, a small city in Wakayama prefecture, bordered on one side by the sea and on the other by mountain forest. Kasuga-chô, the site of Nakagami’s birth, lies within the boundaries of Shingû’s outcaste (burakumin) neighborhood. Nakagami would later use the word “roji,” or alleyway, to describe the twisting, narrow streets of the outcaste community and set much of his fiction there. ...

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7. (Re)Canonizing Kurahashi Yumiko: Toward Alternative Perspectives for "Modern" "Japanese" "Literature"

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pp. 153-176

Kurahashi Yumiko was born in Kôchi, Japan, in 1935, the eldest daughter of a dentist and his wife. Having spent a year as a college student in Japanese literature in Kyoto, she moved to Tokyo primarily to obtain a dental hygienist’s certificate. Then she began to major in French at Meiji University, which then offered courses by such leading literati as Nakamura ...

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8. Murakami Haruki's Two Poor Aunts Tell Everything They Know About Sheep, Wells, Unicorns, Proust, Elephants, and Magpies

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pp. 177-198

Murakami Haruki would be an important figure in contemporary Japanese letters if only for his extensive translations from American fiction (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, John Irving, Tim O’Brien, the complete works of Raymond Carver). But with the enormous popularity of his own fiction drawing attention to his work as a translator, and his translation work providing depth to his broad knowledge of Western and ...

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9. Extreme Imagination: The Fiction of Murakami Ryū

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pp. 199-218

Murakami Ry

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10. Dream Messengers, Rental Children, and the Infantile: Shimada Masahiko and the Possibilities of the Postmodern

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pp. 219-244

Shimada Masahiko was born in Tokyo in 1961 and moved at the age of four to Kawasaki City, where he grew up near the Yomiuri Land theme park. After graduating from the Kawasaki Prefectural High School, he entered the Tokyo University of Foreign Languages, where he majored in Russian. His graduation thesis was on the fiction of the Soviet writer ...

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11. Arguing with the Real: Kanai Mieko

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pp. 245-277

Kanai Mieko was born in 1947 in the city of Takasaki in Gumma prefecture. After graduating from Takasaki Girls’ High School, she embarked immediately upon her literary career. In the year following her graduation, 1967, Kanai published several poems in prominent journals; by the end of the year her combined poetry publications had been awarded the eighth ...

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12. Japanese Without Apology: Yoshimoto Banana and Healing

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pp. 278-302

Yoshimoto Banana’s (b. 1964) first novel Kitchen (1987) became an instant best-seller. Immensely popular with young audiences, Banana has continued to produce appealing fiction such as Bubbles/Sanctuary (Utakata/ Sankuchuari, 1988), Tsugumi (1989), N.P. (1990), Lizard (Tokage, 1993), and Amrita (1994). She has won a number of literary prizes including ...


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pp. 303-304


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pp. 305-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863760
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824820404

Publication Year: 1999